A Palestinian mother who travelled to Gaza to bury two of her triplets has been reunited with her one surviving daughter, after Israel deprived her of a travel permit to return to hospital to collect the child for almost six months.
According to a report by Israel's Channel 13 yesterday, the Palestinian mother – whose name has not been released – was rushed to Al-Makassed Hospital in Jerusalem's Al-Tur neighbourhood in January. The woman was heavily pregnant with triplets and had been transferred to the hospital from the besieged Gaza Strip for surgery.
Although the woman gave birth to all three babies, two died just a few days later. The mother had to travel back to Gaza to bury her two children, leaving the remaining child – baby girl Shahad – in the East Jerusalem hospital to be taken care of by hospital staff.
However, the mother has since been prevented from travelling back to Jerusalem to collect Shahad, with Israel failing to grant her a permit to leave the Strip. Although the hospital repeatedly asked the Palestinian Authority (PA) to request a permit from the Israeli Defence Ministry's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) – which administers swathes of the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) – for Shahad's mother to return to Jerusalem, the request was not granted.
For six months the mother stayed in contact with Shahad via mobile video link, the Times of Israel reported today, citing Channel 13's broadcast. It was only following efforts by the TV channel that COGAT eventually granted the mother's permit to allow her return to Jerusalem, though it is not yet clear when she will make the journey.
The ordeal endured by Shahad's mother is a regular feature of life for Palestinians living in the oPt. Gazans in particular often lack access to medical treatment, with the Strip's healthcare system reported to be on the brink of collapse due to shortages in medicine, electricity outages as a result of Israel's 12-year-old siege, and the strain of thousands of patients injured during the Great March of Return and Israel's aerial bombardments of the coastal enclave.
In February, the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that Israel regularly subjects Palestinian cancer patients in Gaza to months-long delays before granting travel permits. The WHO report found that, "after being diagnosed with cancer, patients in Gaza may often have to wait for months before being able to receive treatment". It continued: "Getting a permit to access the health care needed outside can be a stressful and unpredictable process, and many apply multiple times before being able to exit. Even then, some patients are never able to secure the permits they need to access care."
Israel is obliged by international law to guarantee Palestinians' right to healthcare. In consistently failing or refusing to do so, it is in violation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as the Fourth Geneva Convention. These laws bind Israel as the occupying power to "the duty of ensuring and maintaining […] the medical and hospital establishments and services, public health and hygiene in the occupied territory".