A 19-month-old Palestinian baby died in Gaza last week, after waiting five months for Israel to grant her permission to leave the blockaded enclave for treatment.
Fatima Al-Masri, who was diagnosed last year with a hole in the heart, missed two appointments for treatment at Al-Makassed Hospital in Jerusalem, in December and February, while her family were repeatedly informed that her case was "under review" by Israel's Coordination and Liaison Administration.
"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."
"We are under a 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," added Masri.
The death of Fatima has been condemned by several human rights groups, including the Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights.
"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.
Many Palestinians have lost their lives since 2006, as Israel refuses to issue medical permits for those living in the Gaza Strip. Moreover, while children affected with cancer do get medical permits to be treated in Jerusalem hospitals, their parents are not allowed to accompany them. They are either left alone in hospitals or one of the old grandparents is only allowed to attend to them.
The UN's Special Rapporteur for Palestine, Michael Lynk, in a report last week that described Israel's control over Palestinian territories as "apartheid", said Gaza's health system "is flat on its back, with serious shortages of healthcare professionals, inadequate treatment equipment and low supplies of drugs and medicines."
Mahmoud Shalabi, Programme Manager in Gaza for the charity, Medical Aid Palestine, said the blockade had "suffocated" the health system, leaving hospitals short of medicine and equipment, and that conditions had worsened during the pandemic.