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Israel blocks rights groups from advocating for Gazans

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The organizations include Gisha: the Legal Center for the Freedom of Movement, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, and HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual. They say they have increasingly had their appeals ignored since the war in January. This latest step, the groups complain, takes away one of the few avenues of recourse available to desperate Palestinians.

"Gaza residents have no direct access to the [Israeli] military officials who decide their fates, and up until now they had a chance to have an advocate bring their case before the military and get some sense of due process," says Sari Bashi, the director of Gisha, based in Tel Aviv.

Ms. Bashi, a lawyer, says Gisha and other groups only pick up cases where Palestinians who applied for permits – which they are told to do through the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee – either had their applications rejected or were never given an answer.

"The new procedure means that Palestinians no longer have a right to have an advocate that they chose to help them, and everyone has a right to an advocate," Bashi says.

The case of baby Mutasem

The case of 9-month-old Mutasem Billah Abu-Mastfa, a Gazan baby diagnosed with a severe heart condition, illustrates well the delay and confusion Palestinian families with urgent health issues are facing – and the powerlessness of human rights groups to help. Due to a deterioration of his condition, his doctors in Gaza referred him for treatment at Sheba Hospital at Tel Hashomer, Israel.

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