Thursday, December 10, 2009

Faking cancer to escape Gaza

As the blockade of Gaza continues many Palestinians are looking for a way out. Many are resorting to bribes or faking medical transfers to leave Gaza.

Israel and Egypt do allow Palestinians with life threatening illnesses to leave Gaza to seek medical treatment. So some will fake medical reports saying they have cancer in order to leave.

Israel and Egypt blocked off Gaza after Hamas took control of the territory.

From NPR, this Associated Press story gives one such example.

Akram Ghneim, 31, an unemployed father of six living off food handouts, told The Associated Press he promised $260 to a Palestinian middleman, who obtained for him a bogus medical report saying he had cancer. Ghneim said he hoped he'd get a rare spot on the list of Gaza patients with life-threatening illnesses who are allowed to enter Israel for treatment.

Once in Israel, he planned to disappear and work illegally. But Israeli intelligence officials, who review applications, rejected him last summer, saying his cancer report was forged.

"This is what the blockade does," said Ran Yaron, of the Israeli group Physicians for Human Rights, which helps bring Gazans into Israel for treatment by lobbing Israeli defense officials.

"Most are frustrated and devastated people."

Yaron said fakers are a minority, but clog up the system for real patients who have to go through longer checks as a result.

Of more than 7,000 Gazans who crossed into Israel this year to seek medical treatment, some 500 haven't returned, said Col. Moshe Levi, an Israeli defense official.

Hazem Riyashi, 27, says he paid a middleman $1,000 in July to cross through Egypt, hoping to reach the Gulf emirate of Dubai, where his family lives. But the middleman disappeared and has not returned his calls. Riyashi hasn't given up, and is looking for someone else to pay off.

"I think everybody should leave Gaza," he said. "Even the air smells cleaner abroad."

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