Uptade Evacuation standstill leaves critically injured stranded in Gaza hospitals

LONDON: In northern Gaza, Israel’s siege has prevented severely injured civilians from receiving medical evacuations for more than a month, leaving them in compromised hospital facilities without sufficient care, the German medical charity Cadus has warned.

Because there are no intensive care units in northern Gaza, Palestinians seriously injured by Israeli airstrikes and ground invasions have died, The Guardian reported on Sunday.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society halted evacuations following multiple incidents where medical teams were attacked, harassed or detained by Israeli forces.

Patrick Munz, who leads the Gaza mission for Cadus, highlighted the dire need for ambulances to facilitate the transfer of severely ill patients to specialized care facilities.

Since launching its mission in early February, Cadus set up a trauma stabilization point in Khan Younis, directing patients to better-equipped field hospitals in Rafah and, in some cases, facilitating transfers to Egypt.

The team, treating an average of 25 to 45 patients daily, has seen a significant portion of children among those treated, including a girl injured by an aid package.

Munz described a situation he had never seen in other war zones: Patients injured in the “red zone” had to make their own way to the hospital, in relatives’ cars, on donkey carts, or even on foot, because sending ambulances to collect them was too dangerous. Many people died along the way.

“People need to come by themselves to our trauma stabilization points,” he told The Guardian.

He added: “This means that there are so many patients that are being heavily injured and not even making it to our (medics).

“Of course, we have seen civilians getting killed or targeted in Ukraine as well.

“But what we see here, what comes into our trauma stabilization point, the dead on arrival, sometimes when they’re just bringing a whole family, the mother, father and children. Sometimes it’s really hard to understand why this has to happen in this kind of way.”

Despite these challenges, Cadus and other medical teams have managed to stabilize numerous patients in the two operational hospitals in Gaza City, with some requiring amputations or suffering from severe burns. These patients could potentially survive with proper treatment in Rafah or elsewhere outside Gaza.

Cadus is working with the World Health Organization to get ambulances into the north for evacuations, along with UN aid convoys carrying food and medical supplies.

“The people we will transport at least at the beginning are critical care patients, but who are stable,” Munz said, adding: “They should have been evacuated yesterday already.”

Aid workers have described a “siege within a siege” in northern Gaza.

Earlier in January, Israeli soldiers killed two paramedics trying to reach six-year-old Hind Rajab, who was trapped in her family car in Gaza City and surrounded by the bodies of dead relatives.

The PRCS accused Israel of deliberately targeting the ambulance after the military had approved the rescue mission.

Navigating into Gaza City presents substantial risks and logistical hurdles even for international aid organizations.

“Of course, we also get afraid, I think that is healthy … to understand the risk we are putting ourselves in,” Munz said. “But I’m ready to go; it’s really important that we can start this now.”

Cadus faces restrictions on importing its ambulances into Gaza, relying instead on vehicles provided by the PRCS that have previously been targeted.

The roads have been damaged by months of fighting, so the team must be prepared for breakdowns, including carrying extra spare tires. Much of the route passes through a “red zone” where active combat continues.

“There is quite a real possibility of there being mass casualties on the way … seriously injured people lying on the streets because they’ve got hit by a sniper or whatever,” Munz said. “So, it will be also mentally difficult for the team.”

He hopes that the first evacuations will take place this week.

A Cadus team on a trial mission arrived on Monday at Al-Shifa, one of two hospitals still operating in a limited capacity and serving an estimated 300,000 people trapped in northern Gaza, The Guardian reported.

The logistics of operating in Gaza, even in the south, are extremely difficult.

Aid teams must bring in all their own supplies, including food, water and medical equipment. Once inside Gaza, the process to secure permission from Israeli authorities to leave can take upwards of eight days.

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