Testimony: ISA prevents young man with rare disease from traveling to East Jerusalem for treatment

Kamel a-Taramsi

Kamel a-Taramsi, 24I live with my parents and my ten brothers and sisters in an apartment in the Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. In 2002 my hands began to swell. The swelling spread throughout my body, including my head. Discolorations began appearing on my face and body. With my father, I visited a neurologist who did some tests and referred me to a dermatologist. The dermatologist also did some tests and explained that this was not a skin problem. Subsequently we visited a different neurologist for more tests. The doctor explained that my problem was not neurological but an internal medicine problem. We went to the chief of internal medicine at a-Shifaa Hospital, who tested me and said that this illness was from God and nothing can be done. I didn’t believe that, so we went to numerous other hospitals and all kinds of other specialists but none of them could tell us what disease I had.

Finally, in January 2012, we saw another internist who told me that it’s a growth in the limbs. He prepared an application for financial coverage by the Palestinian Authority. Early in February of this year I received a referral to al-Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem with the PA’s coverage for treatment. I was given an appointment at al-Makassed for 19 February 2012. On 8 February 2012 we contacted the Division of Civil Affairs and submitted a request for a permit [to leave Gaza and reach East Jerusalem] for me and my mother.

On 16 February 2012, we were contacted by the Israel Security Agency. The ISA man asked me what I had and I told him that I have a tumor and that I have been ill since 2002 and that we submitted an application for a permit for the date of my hospital appointment at al-Makassed in Jerusalem. He asked me what kind of work I do and I told him that I don’t work because it is hard for me to stand or to walk for even a few minutes and that I am in constant pain. Then he talked with my father and asked him how many siblings I have and what they do for a living. He asked my father whether he worked in Israel and my father told him that he worked in Israel for 15 years. The conversation ended there.

On 18 February 2012 we were notified by the department for coordination of health matters in the Ministry for Civil Affairs that I had received a permit to enter Israel to get to al-Makassed Hospital together with my mother, Farida a-Taramsi, age 55, and that we had to be at the Erez crossing the next day, Sunday, at 07:30 in the morning.

The next morning we arrived at the checkpoint, and the Palestinian liaison coordinated our entry for us. At 09:00 we entered the Israeli side of the checkpoint. My mother and I gave our ID cards to the soldier at the counter and he instructed us to sit and wait. We waited half an hour and then a man in civilian clothes arrived and took me with my luggage to a room where I was searched and then they took me to another room, underground. I sat in the room. Interrogators who were in the room began questioning me. They asked me what my name is and what is the reason for my visit. I told them it was for treatment at al-Makassed. The soldiers asked me about my siblings and my friends. The interrogator asked me if I have any connection with armed groups. He wrote the names of the organizations on a piece of paper and told me to choose one of them. I told him that I have no connection with any of them. He asked me: “Do you shoot rockets?” I said no. He said: “Is this a table?” I said yes. He said: “Are you a terrorist?” I told him: I am not a terrorist.” I laughed because of his questions and he told me: “Let’s see you laugh in detention.” The interrogation lasted about an hour and a half. Then soldiers took me to another room where I waited at least two hours. A soldier came and asked me if I wanted to go to the bathroom, and I said no.

Then they took me in a GMC vehicle. They handcuffed me with metal handcuffs on my hands and feet to a seat in the vehicle and covered my eyes. The vehicle stopped and soldiers removed my blindfold and removed the handcuffs on my hands. They took me to a room where there was a police officer. The officer showed me a document and demanded that I sign it and I signed. He told me that this meant that I would have a hearing tomorrow. Then he asked me if I have a relative I want to contact. I told him that I remember the phone number of a friend of mine. I gave him the number and he phoned him and told him that he is from the Israel Defense Forces and asked him to tell my family that I was in detention and then he ended the conversation. Then I asked him about my mother who was waiting for me in the hall at the Erez crossing and he told me that he didn’t know.

The soldiers handcuffed me again and covered my eyes and drove me somewhere else, I think it was an army outpost. The soldiers took me out, removed the handcuffs and the blindfold and took me to a room where there was a doctor who checked my blood pressure and examined my medical documents. He said that I suffer from acromegaly [excess growth of bones and connective tissue]. Then a policeman arrived and took the papers and my belongings, like my money and cell phone, and gave me a sheet of paper and then the interrogator arrived who had questioned me earlier at Erez. He asked the policeman to handcuff me and blindfold me because I was going back to Gaza.

The soldiers drove me to the Erez crossing. They gave me my bag and papers. I left the checkpoint and got to the Palestinian Liaison Office. I continued walking until I got to the Hamas checkpoint. They interrogated me, and I got home around 19:00.

I was very tired and my whole body hurt, because of all the riding around and walking from place to place. All those hours I also went without food or drink. I was also very sad and very worried because I could not get to the treatment and they held me for no reason. I was right back where I started. I am still hoping to be able to get to al-Makassed to receive treatment.

My mother told me afterwards that at four o’clock a man in civilian clothes came and told her to go home. When she asked what was happening to me they told her that she would find out later on.

Update: On 21 March 2012, Kamel a-Taramsi reapplied to the Civil Liaison Office for a permit to go to al-Makassed Hospital, but was told that the Israeli side did not approve the request. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel reported that they have approached the Israeli District Civil Liaison Office at Erez about a-Taramsi, but as of 3 April 2012, no reply was received and PHR is considering an appeal to the High Court of Justice.

Kamel Hikmat Kamel a-Taramsi, 24 is a resident of the Jabalya refugee camp. His testimony was taken by Muhammad Sabah on 21 February 2012 at the witness's home.