Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
Date: 18 July 2007
Time: 11:00 GMT
Further Deterioration to Humanitarian Conditions of Palestinians Struck at Rafah International Crossing Point:
Woman’s Death Raise the Number of Deaths at the Crossing Point to 16
On Tuesday, 17 July 2007, Sanaa’ Ahmed ‘Ali Shanan, 29, from the northern Gaza Strip town of Jablaya, married to Jamal Saleem Shalha and a mother of 3 children the youngest of whom is 6-month-old, died at an Egyptian hospital. She had been stuck in Egypt for at least 35 days. According to her brother, she was transferred by the Palestinian Ministry of Health to Nasser Institute Hospital in Cairo nearly 2 months ago to undergo medical checking for her chest. The medical checking concluded that she was suffering from pulmonary fibrosis. She had remained in the hospital from 10 days, before she traveled towards Rafah International Crossing Point to go back to the Gaza Strip. As the crossing point was closed, she was forced to go to al-‘Areesh town, waiting for the crossing point to be opened. She went more than once to the crossing point, and she had to spend more than one night near it. She then stayed in the Egyptian town of Rafah, where she stayed with her uncle. During her stay in Rafah, on Monday, 16 July 2007, her health condition deteriorated. She was evacuated to the hospital, but she died at approximately 11:00 on Tuesday. Her body has been kept at the hospital pending the approval of Israeli authorities to be allowed into the Gaza Strip.
Thus, the number of Palestinians stuck in Egypt who died has increased to 16, most of them are patients who had received medical treatment at Egyptian hospitals and their health conditions deteriorated due to long waiting under inhuman conditions at the crossing point. Two other Palestinians also died in a car accident while they were on their way to the crossing point. IOF have refused to allow the entry of the bodies of the deceased through Rafah International Crossing Point, and have allowed their delayed entry through Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing.
The continued closure of Rafah International Crossing Point, the sole outlet of the Gaza Strip to the outside world, has created a humanitarian crisis for at least 6,000 Palestinians, who have been stuck in Egypt, especially in al-Areesh and Rafah towns, waiting to be allowed in the Gaza Strip. This figure includes at least 1,200 patients who had traveled to Egypt to receive medical treatment at its hospitals, hundreds of families who live abroad and
arrived in Egypt to travel to the Gaza Strip to visit their relatives, and hundreds of university students who wish to spend their summer vacation with their families in the Gaza Strip. Many of these Palestinians have run out of money due to their unexpected long stay in Egypt, and they are threatened by diseases due to the lack of basic sanitation services. Additionally, the Egyptian Authorities have continued to hold hundreds of Palestinians at al-‘Areesh Airport, nearly 50 kilometers away from the crossing point, worried of their possible long stay in Egypt due to the closure of the crossing point.
PCHR is deeply concerned over the deteriorating humanitarian conditions of Palestinians stuck at Rafah International Crossing Point and neighboring Egyptian towns. PCHR is shocked by the failure of the international community and United Nations agencies to act to end the suffering of these Palestinians through pressurizing towards the opening of the crossing point. The closure of border crossings of the Gaza Strip, especially Rafah International Crossing Point, and the restrictions imposed by IOF on the freedom of movement of the Palestinian civilian population constitute a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.
In light of the above:
1) PCHR calls upon the international community, particularly the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to immediately intervene and exert pressure to ensure the reopening of Rafah International Crossing Point in order to end the suffering of thousands of Palestinian who have been stuck at the crossing point.
2) PCHR calls upon the international community to take necessary stop to compel Israel to stop the policy of collective punishment practiced against the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip, manifested in the closure of all border crossing and the restricted movement of persons and goods.
For more information please call PCHR office in Gaza, Gaza Strip, on +972 8 2824776 – 2825893