The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns the targeting of the Palestinian customs checkpoint, near Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing, by Israeli warplanes. As a result of the attack, a Palestinian policeman sustained serious wounds, and damage was caused to surrounding facilities in the area. PCHR also denounces the Israeli Occupation Forces’ (IOF) closing of the crossing for a few hours, due to which, specific categories of Palestinians were denied travel via the crossing, including the Gaza Strip’s patients who have obtained medical referrals to West Bank and/or Israeli hospitals.

According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 07:15 on Wednesday, 24 October 2012, an Israeli warplane attacked the customs checkpoint ’44’ of the Ministry of Interior in Gaza, which is approximately 1,700 meters away from Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing in the northern Gaza Strip. As a result, Hassan Harb Saleh Abu Jabal, 25, a Palestinian policeman from Beit Lahia, sustained critical wounds, while he was on duty.

Moreover, major damage was caused to the electricity network supplying the Gaza Strip with power, and to offices of security services in the area.

At approximately 08:00 on Wednesday, 24 October 2012, IOF closed Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing and declared the crossing area as a closed military area. Due to that decision, all categories of people who are allowed to travel daily via the crossing, including patients holding medical referrals to be treated in the West Bank and/or Israeli hospitals, were prevented from passing through the crossing.

It should be noted that IOF allowed 12 patients and companions, and 5 traders to travel via the crossing in the early morning before the crossing was closed. However, 28 patients, who obtained permits to travel and receive medical treatment abroad, were prevented from travelling.

Palestinian patients in the Gaza Strip, who suffer from serious illnesses, depend on medical referrals to hospitals abroad for their medical treatment.

This dependence is the result from the inability of the Gaza Strip hospitals to treat these illnesses. Consequently, 30-50 cases are referred to hospitals in Israel or the West Bank, including Jerusalem, daily in order to receive medical treatment or complete their treatment there.

PCHR condemns the continuing Israeli violations against civilians in the Gaza Strip, and:

• Calls for prompt action to exert pressure towards keeping Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing open and allow the Gaza Strip’s patients, who suffer from serious illnesses and hold permits to travel via the crossing, to travel freely and safely in order to receive medical treatment and prevent deterioration of their health conditions;

• Condemns the policy of collective punishment practiced by the Israeli authorities against Palestinian civilians, in addition to the illegal closure imposed on the Gaza Strip for over 5 years now;

• Calls upon the IOF to respect its legal obligations in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention 1949, especially to guarantee the entry of medical consignments and food aids and to ensure the freedom of patients’ movement in order for them to receive the adequate medical treatment;

• Calls upon the international community, including the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to fulfill their obligations and responsibilities through taking immediate actions towards putting an end to violations of international law committed by IOF against Palestinian civilians, particularly patients who need special protection; and

• Calls for halting the targeting of civilians in the Gaza Strip, who enjoy protection in time of armed conflict and military occupation according to international humanitarian law and international human rights law.