Ref: 63/2006

Date:  07 July 2006

Time: 10:30 GMT 

Four Human Rights Organizations Petition the Israeli High Court to Allow Palestinian Patients to Return Home

Four Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations submitted a petition to the Israeli High Court on Wednesday, 5 July 2006, to allow the return of Palestinian medical patients, who are stranded at Rafah International Crossing Point to return to their homes.  The organizations that submitted the petition are Physicians for Human Rights in Israel, Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.

The petition was submitted after Israeli authorities prevented 400 Palestinians stuck inside the terminal of Rafah Crossing from returning home to the Gaza Strip, when the crossing was closed on 25 June 2006.

It is noted that nearly 4,000 Palestinians are currently stranded in Egypt, as a result of the closure of the crossing.  This number includes 400 who are inside the crossing terminal at the Egyptian side and cannot leave it.  This number includes 70 medical patients who were returning from treatment abroad, including those who underwent complicated surgery.

This morning, Friday 7 July 2006, the Israeli court viewed the petition.  The presiding judge decided to allocate a session next week, presided by a panel of judges, to review the petition.  The judge claimed that the petition was “not urgent”.  The four organizations submitting the petition filed an appeal against the judge’s decision that considered the safe return of 70 medical patients stranded at the border for two weeks as “not urgent”.  The court will review the appeal today.

In the preliminary reply through the State Attorney, the Court indicated that Israel will allow these patients to return through Kerem Shalom crossing.  However, follow up of the issue has refuted this claim, forcing the four human rights organizations to proceed further with the case.

PCHR looks gravely upon the continued closure of the Rafah Crossing and upon the catastrophic consequences of the closure on the Palestinian people, since:

  • the crossing is the only point linking the Gaza Strip with the outside world;

  • there is no foreseeable reopening date for the crossing in the near future;

  • tens of thousands of Palestinians travel in and out of the Strip for holidays during the summer.  The number of travelers prevented from returning home will increase significantly over the coming days and weeks; and

  • All other crossings linking the Gaza Strip with Israel are closed.