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Gaza wounded get help across the border

The Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with Gaza
(Pablo De Soto/IRIN)

The town of Rafah is divided between Egypt and Gaza, with the border running through the town. Al-Arish hospital on the Egyptian side had yet another busy day on 7 January with the arrival of 29 wounded Palestinians from Gaza via the Rafah border crossing. 

Read more Gaza reports

Among the wounded were a nine-month-old child shot in the head and a 27-year old woman shot in the intestines. Her traumatised sister was being calmed down by nurses outside the emergency room. A doctor told IRIN he was finding bullets and not just shrapnel in the bodies of children, an indication, he said, that they may have been targeted by Israeli soldiers.

The Israeli authorities have strongly denied any intention of attacking civilians.

Despite criticism of Egypt's reluctance to keep the Rafah border crossing open to allow aid into Gaza, some humanitarian workers said the government's response was adequate.

"The hospital [Al-Arish] has become very well equipped to receive the wounded," said Ayman al-Hady, head of an emergency team sent in by the Ministry of Health. The hospital's capacities have been boosted: “For example, instead of six beds in the intensive care unit, now there are 19," he said.

Al-Hady said the team had been trained on evacuations by air, the provision of medical care on board an aircraft, and crisis management.

All cases are referred to Cairo or to other cities in Jordan or Saudi Arabia. "The mission of al-Arish hospital is to stabilise the wounded. But once cases are stabilised we transfer them to keep the beds free for other victims," said Tarek Mahalawy, deputy health minister. According to him, all patients who show up at the border area are granted access to Egypt.

A map of OPT showing the Rafah crossing point

Carte des TPO (Territoires palestiniens occupés). En rouge, le point de passage frontalier de Rafah
A map of OPT showing the Rafah crossing point
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Les blessés de Gaza, soignés de l’autre côté de la frontière
A map of OPT showing the Rafah crossing point

Photo: ReliefWeb
A map of OPT showing the Rafah crossing point

See Gaza situation map

Chaotic border

The situation at the Rafah border crossing is somewhat chaotic. On 7 January on the Egyptian side, trucks filled with medical supplies were awaiting clearance by the Egyptian authorities so that they could cross into Gaza.

"We're here with a truck filled with medical supplies," said Yilmaz Kizilay from the Turkish Red Crescent. Egyptian police officers meticulously checked each truck. Other goods go through the Kerem Shalom crossing, 4km from the Rafah crossing.

"We have been coordinating closely with the Egyptian Red Crescent but would like to be able to cross to the other side [Gaza] in order to help with the situation there," he said. Egypt, however, has not been allowing medics to cross the border, saying their lives could be endangered.

Most shops in the Egyptian part of Rafah are shut and riot police have taken up positions along the border with Gaza, especially near the Salah al-Din border area.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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