Gisha to Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child: Allow parents from Gaza to accompany their children to medical treatment outside the Strip

Noa Galili, Gisha’s public advocacy coordinator, speaking to the Knesset committee. Screenshot from the Knesset channel

On October 19, Gisha’s Public Advocacy Coordinator Noa Galili took part in a special session of the Knesset’s Committee on the Rights of the Child, headed by Member of Knesset Yousef Jabareen. The session focused on the obstacles and restrictions imposed by Israel on parents seeking to accompany children who must exit the Strip to receive medical treatment that is not available in Gaza. The discussion was initiated by Member of Knesset Tamar Zandberg.

A vast number of protocols and procedures issued by Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) govern the lives of people living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel wields ongoing control over the degree to which Palestinians can access and exercise their rights. One of the provisions made in the protocols is that medical patients traveling for life-saving treatment that is unavailable in the Strip may apply for a permit for one person to accompany them.

Galili explained that in practice, many parents do not receive permits to accompany their children. In 2015, Gisha reported that Israel de facto enforces an age requirement, for patients’ companions, usually approving permits more quickly for companions aged 55 or older. Applications filed by younger people, including parents wishing to accompany their children, can take weeks to process, which deters people from applying for fear that their child’s critical treatment could be delayed or missed altogether.

Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, whose executive director, Ran Goldstein, also participated in the discussion, noted that according to figures released by Israeli authorities, one of every five children to exit Gaza for medical treatment in 2019 traveled without a parent.

At the conclusion of the session, MK Yousef Jabareen called on Israel to allow every child exiting Gaza for medical treatment to have at least one parent accompanying them. The committee chair also highlighted the need to allow Gaza residents to exit for any medical treatment that is unavailable in Gaza. Under the current Israeli criterion, only applications for lifesaving treatment or “medical treatment without which quality of life is critically altered” are considered.

Israel’s policy of closure on Gaza, and restrictions on Palestinians’ movement and access throughout the occupied territory, produce intolerable, inhumane situations. Israel must allow Gaza’s residents to exercise their fundamental rights, including the right to access medical care, and to support family members in times of need.