Photo Credit: Andrew McIntire / TPS
Erez Crossing on the Israel-Gaza border

The Ramallah government headed by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas says it’s not to blame for the deaths of three Gaza babies — Gazan medical patients whose applications it rejected for medical exit permits.

The permits are only approved when the Abbas government is willing to authorize – and pay for – medical treatment outside the Gaza enclave.

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Those who are sickest and require sophisticated care have in the past traveled to Israeli hospitals and clinics in Judea or Samaria. But for the past several months, Abbas has slowed his approvals of the permits, and last month the handful trickled to a crawl and then stopped.

By May 15 there were no medical exit permits to be had, and even those patients who had been receiving regular treatments for cancer were told they were not authorized for passage through the Erez Crossing.

This week, three Gaza infants with cardiovascular issues paid the price, according to outraged social media posts in Arabic. Gaza journalist Mohamd Nashwan noted that 300 of Gaza’s 3500 medical patients who needed external care left the enclave in May for the desperately needed treatments.

“#Mahmoud Abbas I do not know what to say to you,” he tweeted. “Surrounded by your people, preventing their treatment and killing the sick.

“The death of the sick child Bara’a Mohammed Ghaban, the third siege martyr, comes within hours after being prevented from receiving treatment abroad.”

The head of the southern district medical referral department of the Palestinian Authority, Bassam al-Badri, told the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news outlet, however, pointed the finger at Israel. He complained that Israel should approve entry of “thousands of patients” via the Erez crossing, but “only 50 percent of medical permits were approved as a result of the Israeli restrictions.”

But regardless — the truth is that Gazans must first apply to the Palestinian Authority government in Ramallah long before they apply to Israel — and even PA-based Arab media know it.

In April the number of vouchers dropped below 2,000 and in May, just a few dozen were approved by Ramallah, according to data from the Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHRI) group. More than 90 percent of patients in Gaza who submitted requests for vouchers over the past month received no reply from Ramallah. Only 10 of the 120 daily requests have been receiving approvals, according to the data quoted by Ma’an.

Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zukhri accused Abbas in a tweet of causing “the martyrdom of a number of children,” saying the rejection of medical exit permits “constitutes crimes against humanity.”

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, has stated he considers the issue to be an internal dispute between the two factions and refuses to get involved in the internal affairs of the Palestinian Authority.

In general, Abbas has reduced his financial support of Gaza, also refusing to pay for more than 70 percent of the enclave’s electricity supplied by Israel – resulting in a significant reduction in power provided by the Jewish State. The Gazans are paying their electricity bills, however: the bottleneck is found at the Hamas government, which refuses to pass on the payment to the Palestinian Authority for remuneration to Israel.

Abbas has also cut payments of salaries to Gaza-based government employees.

The enclave’s ruling Hamas terrorist group ousted the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah faction, led by Abbas, from Gaza in a bloody coup in 2007. Since that time, Abbas has not been allowed to set foot in the enclave, nor are Hamas leaders Khaled Mesha’al and Ismail Haniyeh, among others, welcome in PA-controlled territories in Judea and Samaria.

This most recent move is seen as a bid by Abbas to retake governmental control over the enclave by showing the population that its leadership is not really leading.

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