Gaza’s wounded receive care and support in the West Bank

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A Palestinian child, wounded in an Israeli air strike on the al-Shati refugee camp, lies on a stretcher as he is treated at the al-Shefa hospital in Gaza City, on August 4, 2014. (Photo: AFP-Mohammed Abed)

By: Amon al-Sheikh

Published Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wiam al-Astal, a 9-year-old girl from Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, lies on a bed in the surgery ward at al-Najah Hospital in Nablus, in the northern occupied West Bank. The girl’s hands are covered with tubes and she is surrounded by medical equipment. Her eyes blink lazily; she is still sedated by all the painkillers the doctors administered to alleviate her pain.

Nablus – Her left leg has been amputated from the knee down. The doctor have also inserted a metal stem into her thigh bone, and one of her ankles is being treated for fractures she had suffered there.

Her forty-something father lies on a bed nearby. He has suffered fractures in his left leg and bruising in different parts of his body. The two were wounded together, but the Israelis had separated them as they were being taken for treatment in the West Bank. Once they were at the Erez crossing, the father was told he would be going to St. Joseph's Hospital in Jerusalem, while she had to go to al-Najah. Five days later, however, they were reunited in Nablus.

Wiam’s father told Al-Akhbar that he had gotten on the roof of his home on July 21 to repair his TV antenna so he could watch the news, and took Wiam with him and other children who were bored of staying indoors. “Suddenly, a drone bombed us,” the man says. “We were all hit. Wiam’s leg was blown off while the other leg was badly injured,” he adds.

According to medical sources, 26 wounded individuals from Gaza are currently being treated in al-Najah Hospital, after the Red Cross and Palestinian NGOs coordinated their entry into the West Bank. Hassan Qamhiyeh, Public Relations and Patients Affairs Officer at al-Najah, said that the hospital, since the beginning of the assault, had declared it was prepared to receive the wounded. He added, “We notified the relevant authorities to send a large number [of patients], because we have excellent medical skills and capabilities.”

Speaking to Al-Akhbar, Qamhiyeh said that the cases admitted to the hospital ranged from moderate to critical, pointing out that four patients are still in intensive care. According to the hospital official, the majority of cases involved amputations, while many are children and elderly people.

The plight of the wounded Gazans does not end with the physical injury they brutally suffered at the hands of the Israeli occupation, whose cruelty continues to haunt them even in the West Bank. The mother of one critically injured child who remains in intensive care suffered a nervous breakdown, after her brother and brother-in-law were killed while she was in the West Bank. According to Qamhiyeh, the woman in question is recovering and showing signs of improvement. Her son is also improving and should be able to leave intensive care within 10 days.

Samia Rihan, an eight-year-old girl, lies in another room in the surgery ward. She and her family survived an Israeli strike on their home. But after they sheltered in the home of Samia’s aunt, they were hit by another strike as they broke their fast during Ramadan. They were all wounded, but Samia suffered the worst injuries.

The girl was hit in the abdomen, affecting the function of her thoracic diaphragm. One of her kidneys had to be removed along with parts of her liver, spleen, and intestines. Two fingers from her right hand were also amputated.

Ibrahim Abdul-Dayem, 23, lost his eyesight and legs and a few members of his family and even neighbors during Israeli strikes. They were all together in the same room at an UNRWA school in Beit Lahiya in Gaza, where they had sought shelter. Ibrahim, who himself was an UNRWA intern, was at the time distributing food to the refugees, including to his parents.

He told Al-Akhbar, “My brother and my father were killed. My sister was injured. My mother, brother, and four of our neighbors who were with us in the same classroom were killed too.” Ibrahim will undergo multiple surgeries on his eyes, after three operations on his legs, and might need four or five more operations.

Dr. Abdul-Karim al-Barqawi, a surgery consultant, said that many of the wounded will be left with permanent disabilities, including Samia Rihan. He also predicts that she will have long-lasting psychological effects.

On the other hand, hundreds of people from the West Bank have come to visit the wounded, bringing gifts and aid. Al-Najah Hospital has been managing visiting hours in a way that does not harm the wounded or interfere with their treatment.

On a related note, around 500 Palestinian children at an event in Ramallah on Tuesday called on Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon to resign from his post, for having “failed to protect the children of Gaza.” The children and organizers of the event handed over a letter to a UN office in the city, proclaiming, “Palestinian children are not statistics.”

Mujahid Bani Muflih provided additional reporting from Ramallah

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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