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Israeli Supreme Court temporarily halts plan to return Palestinian hospital patients to Gaza after doctors appeal

Israel’s Supreme Court has temporarily halted a government plan to send a group of Palestinian patients being treated in East Jerusalem and Tel Aviv hospitals back to Gaza.

The decision follows a petition by the Israeli non-profit organization Physicians for Human Rights Israel, which decided to take action following a CNN report on the Palestinian hospital patients.

“Returning residents to Gaza during a military conflict and a humanitarian crisis is against international law and poses a deliberate risk to innocent lives,” the organization’s spokesperson Ran Yaron said Wednesday. “All the more so when it concerns patients who may face a death sentence due to insanitary conditions and hunger, along with the unlikely availability of medical care.”

Following the group’s appeal, the Israeli Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction to prevent the Israeli government from sending around two dozen Palestinian patients and their companions back to Gaza.

The Palestinians were set to be bussed to Gaza early Thursday morning. However, after the temporary court injunction, the Israeli government delayed that until at least Monday, hospital officials told CNN.

Dr. Fadi Atrash, CEO of Augusta Victoria Hospital, which is treating Gazan cancer patients, and another hospital official confirmed the delay to CNN.

Among the Palestinians, most of whom were granted access to Jerusalem hospitals by Israeli authorities before October 7, are five newborn babies and their mothers who have been living at Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem.

The group also included cancer patients now in remission who were being treated at Augusta Victoria Hospital, according to hospital officials and humanitarian officials.

A handful of the Palestinian patients the Israeli government wants to send back to Gaza are also being treated at Tel HaShomer Hospital in the Tel Aviv suburbs, the officials said.

CNN previously reported on the plight of the patients, where mothers expressed to us their conflicting emotions about returning to Gaza – with a desire to be reunited with family and other children, but also the instinct to protect their newborns by staying in Jerusalem.

‘Gaza is not the same anymore’

Among them will be Nima Abu Garrara, who was brought from Rafah to East Jerusalem pregnant with twins and gave birth on October 5. Since then, all her twins have known is the safety of a room at Makassed Hospital.

“If I go back with the twins… where do I go with them? Where would I get diapers and milk?” she asked, in tears. “Gaza is not the same anymore.”

“I might go back and then they invade Rafah,” Abu Garrara said of the Israeli military. “I’ll be the one responsible for anything that harms them. I was dying when I came here and stayed with them here to protect them.”

Hannan Sharadan said she spent seven years trying to conceive before she became pregnant with twins. “I’m scared because there’s no ceasefire,” she said while rocking her son Abdullah. “Life has become very expensive. There are diseases spreading. Infections. It’s not a normal life.”

Physicians for Human Rights Israel said the “fact that the security officials refuse to convey such a directive in writing indicates that they themselves are aware that it is clearly illegal and are avoiding responsibility.”

Hospital officials say they have largely been communicating by phone with COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories), the Israeli defense ministry body responsible for Palestinian affairs, which is coordinating the departure.

Dr. Atrash told CNN on Sunday that he had for some time resisted Israeli government demands to provide a list of Palestinians who no longer required in-patient treatment.

“It’s not our call, at the end of the day,” he said. “And this is really frustrating. We [have not been] able to help people in Gaza since the beginning of the war. As doctors, this is our daily feeling, that we are not able to do anything.”

In response to a CNN inquiry, COGAT confirmed that Palestinians from Gaza who “are not in need of further medical care” are being sent back to Gaza and that COGAT would coordinate the return with international aid organizations.

“In cases where there is a need for further medical treatment, COGAT arranges their stay with the hospitals to safeguard their health,” the agency said.

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