One of the few open-heart surgeons based in the occupied West Bank said on Saturday he had been detained at Israel’s airport and faced possible deportation.
After being detained for more than a day at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, Israel granted Dirgham Abu Ramadan, a German cardiologist of Palestinian origin, a one-week extension on his tourist visa and allowed him to enter the country.
“They told me I was allowed in for seven days during which I would either get a work permit or I leave the country,” Abu Ramadan told Reuters.
Abu Ramadan has performed surgeries at hospitals across the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip for years. He said he has 270 surgeries scheduled in the coming months.
Mazen al-Shawa, general manager of the al-Mezan Hospital in the West Bank city of Hebron, said Abu Ramadan was scheduled to perform eight procedures on Saturday alone. “This is a very grave issue. He’s the only professional surgeon in the West Bank,” al-Shawa said.
Some Palestinians can receive treatment at Israeli hospitals but it is difficult to get permits and many cases have been refused.
Shlomo Dror, an Israeli defence ministry spokesman, said Abu Ramadan received a week-long tourist visa and was required to apply within seven days for a permanent work permit.
Abu Ramadan told Reuters by telephone from the airport that he has been working legally in the West Bank for years and that a lawyer was working on his work permit.
Thousands of expatriates of Palestinian origin have been entering the West Bank for years on tourist visas because of the difficulty of getting permanent residency cards and other permits issued by Israel.
But since the Hamas Islamist movement took power in March, Israel has tightened up on the use of tourist visas, which had been renewable every three months by leaving the West Bank and returning again.
Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat reached a deal last month with the Israeli government to allow foreign nationals of Palestinian origin to get Israeli visas that would allow them entry to Palestinian areas.
The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem estimates that Israel has frozen 120,000 Palestinian family reunification requests since a Palestinian uprising erupted in 2000.