Rights group slams Israeli-Palestinian medical inequality

Palestinian life expectancy is about 10 years lower than for Israelis

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A rights group on Thursday urged Israel to lift restrictions which it said deprive Palestinians of sufficient medical care, slamming high infant mortality rates and poor access to treatment.

Physicians for Human Rights released its 47-page report, entitled Divide and Conquer, just days after Israel froze tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority in a move condemned by the United States and European Union.

“It is the duty of the Palestinian ministry of health to provide health services to the population to the best of its ability,” the report said.

“But it is Israel’s obligation to provide all of those services that exceed the ability of the Palestinian ministry of health, so that a Palestinian child and an Israeli child, who may live only a few hundred yards apart, receive the same level of medical care.”

The report accused Israel of imposing “limitations on the freedom of movement of patients, medical staff and medications” and for its “control of the Palestinian budget, including the health budget”.

All this, it said, put the Palestinian healthcare system in a state of “uncertainty”.

According to the report, Palestinian life expectancy is about 10 years lower than for Israelis, while infant mortality rates are five times higher in the Palestinian territories than in Israel.

Israel controls some 60 percent of the occupied West Bank as well as two of the three crossings in and out of the Gaza Strip. The third is controlled by Egypt.

International humanitarian law holds an occupying power responsible for the wellbeing of its population.

The report came as a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip worsened after a bloody 50-day summer war, with around 100,000 people still left homeless in harsh winter weather.

PHR slammed Israel for “making the departure of patients from the Gaza Strip for medical treatment conditional upon undergoing... security questioning” by its domestic security service.

Israel has frozen more than $100 million of tax revenues it normally transfers to the Palestinian Authority, in retaliation for the Palestinians applying for membership of the International Criminal Court with the aim of suing Israeli officials for alleged war crimes.

The U.S. and EU slammed the Israeli move as counterproductive and serving only to raise tensions in a region wracked by months of violence.

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