Prof. Tzvi Bentwich of the group said he was impressed by the interest among members of the Palestinian medical services in cooperating with Israel to improve the situation in Gaza. "There are people on the other side who want contact with Israelis and they speak of the necessity to have relations with Israel. The Palestinian health minister in the Hamas government, despite things he said as a politician, was determined and clear regarding the need for professional cooperation in the medical field," Bentwich said.
Bentwich said tight security measures imposed by the Israel Defense Forces at border crossings is stymieing efforts to replenish drugs stocks in Gaza hospitals and preventing patients from receiving necessary treatment.
"On this matter there is total contempt for human life, even if the Palestinians are being forced to get used to the fact that citizens are dying because of shortages in drugs and treatment, or inappropriate treatment," he added.
Bentwich accused the Israeli government's actions fall short of its claims that its policy is to alleviate the dire humanitarian conditions in Gaza.
"It is about time that on this matter the government did what it claims to be doing and doesn't do – to allow free movement for patients, drugs, to assist the ill and needy," he said.
Group members asked the Palestinian health minister for information about kidnapped Corporal Gilad Shalit. "He said that he doesn't know about his condition, that he is not responsible for his kidnap and its consequences and that he doesn't interfere in these matters," Bentwich said of the minister's response.
During the visit Bentwich met a 27-year-old Samah Tatar. Samah underwent a series of operation and treatments in Gaza for a recurring bladder infection but doctors recommended a special catheterization, which is only available in Israeli hospitals.
Her father, Dr Salameh Tatar, said his daughter's situation is likely to deteriorate if she doesn't undergo the catheterization in Israel or elsewhere.
"We submitted a request to enter the Ichilov Hospital (in Tel Aviv), but they told us my daughter is banned for security considerations," he said.
"I am surprised by this claim. A young woman, a student suffering from a serious illness and who can hardly walk, which security threat does she bring? That's a humanitarian case and I hope they will help us to save my daughter … Please help us," he said.
'Palestinians are shooting themselves in the foot'
IDF officials said the army is doing its best to ensure the passage of humanitarian aid and cargo into the Gaza Strip despite the tricky security situation.
They said terror organizations place a high priority on targeting border crossings operated by Israel, forcing random closures and disruptions.
"The Palestinians are shooting themselves in the foot," officials said. "Last week a tunnel was uncovered, and apparently it was dug to carry out a bombing attack under a main building at the Karni crossing. In a situation like this it is impossible to open the crossing and allow dozens of Israelis to work there and endanger their lives. We had attacks at the Erez crossing and many others in the Gaza Strip in the past and it is no secret that terror groups have made it their aim to attack border crossings," the officials said.
The officials noted that efforts are being made to find an alternative to the Karni crossing to transport tons of humanitarian aid into Gaza.