Hamas Says PA, Israel Refusing Travel Documents For Sick Gazans

Hamas on Tuesday accused the Palestinian Authority and Israel of refusing to grant documents to Gazans in need of permission to seek medical treatment outside the blockaded coastal enclave.

The accusation came with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas allegedly seeking to pressure his rivals Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip, through a series of measures.

A spokesman for the health ministry at Abbas’s Palestinian Authority (PA) however denied there had been any change in policy regarding such health documents.

To leave Gaza and travel through Israel to receive treatment in the occupied West Bank, Gazans must first apply for documents from the internationally recognised PA before applying to Israel.

The number of PA permits granted has decreased hugely in recent months, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said.

In recent days three children have died in Gaza after failing to receive permits to seek treatment outside, the ministry added, accusing the PA and Israel of responsibility.

“Since the beginning of the year 11 people, most of them children, have died as a result of refusal of travel permits to them by either Israel or the Palestinian Authority,” ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra told AFP.

Gazans have reacted angrily on social media after it was alleged a sick cat had been granted a permit to leave for medical treatment.

“There is a real fear of more deaths with the ongoing banning of medicine from entering (Gaza) and for the sick travel permits for treatment,” Yusef Abu Rish, undersecretary of health at the Gaza ministry, told a press conference.

“The crime of banning children from travelling for treatment is part of a series of crimes against the health sector in Gaza.”

The Israeli military body responsible for exit permits did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hamas seized the Gaza Strip from Abbas’s Fatah party in a near civil war in 2007 following a dispute over parliamentary elections won by the Islamist movement.

In recent months, Abbas has been accused of seeking to pressure Gaza’s leaders in Hamas by cutting salaries for civil servants and payments for services.

Earlier this month, Israel began reducing electricity supplies to Gaza after the PA stopped paying for it.

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