Palestinian baby dies after treatment delayed by Israeli blockade of Gaza

The Guardian (1 April 2022) reports..

Fatima al-Masri, a 19-month-old with a hole in her heart, waited five months for Israel to issue a permit allowing her to travel for treatment

(Read the full report here)

A 19-month-old child has died in Gaza after waiting for five months for Israel to grant her permission to leave the blockaded enclave for treatment.

Human right groups said Israel’s blockade of Gaza was responsible for the death of Fatima al-Masri, who was diagnosed last year with a hole in the heart and who died on Friday.

“I loved her from deep inside my heart. I wish I had died as well as her,” said Jalal al-Masri, Fatima’s father. “They kept saying the application was ‘under review, under review’ and then she died.

“It felt like I had died as well without Fatima in my life. Nothing breaks a person more than losing their child.”

Masri said that Fatima missed two appointments for treatment at Jerusalem’s al-Makassed hospital in December and February while her family were told her case was “under review” by the Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA), the Israeli authority which handles Palestinian travel permits.

“We are under blockade. I don’t understand how Israel can send me this message about her case being under review. If Israel wanted to send her by herself for treatment, then send her,” said Masri.

The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, a Palestinian NGO, took on Fatima’s case when Masri complained in February, urging Israel to issue the permit in time for her to be taken to al-Makassed in the week after the appointment, before the hospital takes a patient off its list.

“Al Mezan deeply regrets Fatima’s death and strongly condemns Israel’s ongoing closure on the Gaza Strip and its associated restrictions on the movement of Palestinians, that includes denying patients access to the hospitals in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Israel and abroad,” the NGO said in a statement.

Al Mezan said the Israeli authority, which makes decisions on permits, referred them instead to the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee (PCAC), which co-ordinates with Israel.

Israel approved 69% of permit applications from patients in Gaza in February but 56% of applications for companions to patients were not responded to in time for the appointment, according to the World Health Organization’s monthly report.