Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Questions (28, 70)

John Halligan

Question:

28. Deputy John Halligan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will condemn the closure of Gaza from both the Israeli and Egyptian sides, which has resulted in a severe shortage of medicine and medical disposables entering the Gaza Strip and which combined with electricity shortages has placed nearly one thousand patients at risk of death; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41183/13]

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Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

70. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the case of Wael Abu-Sada, a 40 year old Palestinian citizen who died of a serious illness on 23 September 2013 after he was prevented from travelling through the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt for medical treatment in Jordan; if he will raise this case with the Egyptian and Israeli Governments and encourage them both to lift the illegal blockade and siege of Gaza. [41154/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28 and 70 together.

As the Deputy is aware, I have consistently called for the end of the restrictive measures imposed on the border crossings into and out of Gaza, which impose many hardships on the people of Gaza but paradoxically strengthen the control there of Hamas and other militant groups. The terms under which the Rafah border crossing to Egypt operates are restricted by the agreement between Israel and Egypt under which the Sinai was returned to Egypt, but it has at times acted as an important safety valve when conditions in Gaza have demanded it. Unfortunately, due to the turmoil in Egypt, including serious security problems in the Sinai and a belief by the Egyptian authorities that weapons and fighters are entering Egypt from Gaza, controls on the Rafah crossing have tightened considerably in recent months.

The health system in Gaza, like all aspects of life, is affected by these various restrictions, inevitably resulting in greater risks to some patients. Medical supplies to Gaza, like all goods, must come in through crossing points whose operation is laborious and often interrupted, and the access of patients to treatments not available in Gaza is likewise complicated. The recent case of Mr. Abu-Sada is a particular example of this. As a Hamas official he would be unlikely to seek treatment in Israel, but it is not clear if this had any bearing on his ability to cross into Egypt. I have no independent details of the particular circumstances of his case.

It should be noted that numbers of patients from Gaza are treated in Israeli hospitals, which also indeed treat patients from the West Bank and even, recently, from the fighting in Syria. This is despite the fact that Israel considers both Gaza and Syria to be hostile territories, from which it is subject to attack. Some patients have also been transferred into Egypt.

I commend those actions. I call for the ending of all restrictive measures on entry into, and out of, Gaza of normal human, commercial and humanitarian traffic. And in the meantime, I would indeed appeal to all relevant authorities, Palestinian, Israeli and Egyptian, to be as flexible and compassionate as they can be in providing for the treatment of persons in need in Gaza, trapped by the forces in conflict around them.