The Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) organization asserted on Monday that there has been a significant rise in the number of rejections issued to Palestinian applicants seeking entry into Israel on medical grounds.
The group said that since early April Shin Bet authorities have been rejecting a significantly larger number
of permits for Gazans seeking treatment in Israeli medical facilities.
Figures presented by the organization point to 12 cancer patients in serious condition who have been waiting to undergo lifesaving procedures in Israel, but who have so far been barred from crossing the border. Among the dozen are five women, some of whom are battling breast cancer, and two men diagnosed with malignant brain tumors.
All those on PHR's records have been referred to Israeli facilities and some of them have already missed crucial treatment sessions.
'Shin Bet using hollow excuses'
The advocacy group previously criticized Israel last month, saying that 32 Palestinians had died while awaiting entry permits for treatment in Israel since October 2007. PHR said the Shin Bet had no reason to classify the patients as a “security risk” and deny them entry into Israel.
"These deaths clearly illustrate that the Shin Bet, which often uses security concerns as a hollow excuse to deny patients entry into Israel, holds an unwarranted amount of power and needs to be more closely monitored," PHR said in a statement.
Shin Bet officials said in response to the allegations that following Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip, "Israel grants entry permits solely for humanitarian reasons. Many Palestinians take advantage of this policy and enter Israel using forged medical documents attained by bribing Palestinian doctors. Seeing as terror operatives could easily gain entry into Israel in this manner, this clearly poses a grave security concern for the State of Israel.”
In June 2005 a 21-year-old Palestinian woman, Wafa Samir Ibrahim al-Bass, was arrested at a Gaza border crossing with a suicide belt. A resident of Jabaliya, she had suffered serious burns as the result of a household accident in 2004 and had been a patient of the Soroka hospital in Beersheba for several months and had been issued an entry permit to visit the hospital for a check-up.
In her questioning Wafa confirmed she had intended to detonate the explosive belt at the crowded Israeli hospital.