Group: Israel detains Palestinian returning to Gaza after escorting infant son to hospital

12:00 Jun 29 2016 Erez crossing

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Israeli troops detained a Palestinian man at a crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip as he was heading back to the besieged Palestinian territory after escorting his infant son to an Israeli hospital last week, an NGO said in a statement on Tuesday.

According to Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, Tariq Kamal al-Hajj, a 41-year-old resident from Gaza City, was detained at the Erez crossing on June 22 as he was returning back home from escorting his 8-month-old son Yasin to the Tel Hashomer hospital in the Israeli city of Ramat Gan, where the infant underwent hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT).

Al-Mezan added that family members were summoned to the Erez crossing to bring home Yousif -- al-Hajj’s two-year-old son who was traveling to and from Israel with his father to provide the cells necessary for his younger brother’s potentially life-saving surgery -- hours after al-Hajj was detained.

Al-Hajj’s wife and infant son remain in the Israeli hospital.

When contacted by Ma’an, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli agency which implements Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory and administers the border crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip, declined to comment on the case.

A spokesperson for Shin Bet, the Israeli intelligence agency, was not immediately available for comment.

The reasons behind al-Hajj’s detention remain unknown. It also remained unclear whether al-Hajj was still being detained one week later.

“The Al-Mezan Center condemns once again detaining patients and their escorts, and preventing patients from the Gaza Strip from reaching hospitals by refusing to issue permits, procrastinating issuing permits, or detaining them or their escorts,” the NGO said in its statement.

Erez is the only land crossing between Gaza and Israel, although travel is heavily restricted by Israeli authorities as part of a crippling blockade on the coastal enclave in place since 2007.

Palestinians detained at Erez are often interrogated for several hours, sometimes for days, before they are either allowed into Israel or sent back to Gaza.

Earlier this month, humanitarian organization World Vision International reported that the head of the organization’s office in the Gaza Strip, Muhammad al-Halabi, had been detained at the Erez crossing.
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