Over 20 US doctors trapped in besieged Gaza: Report

Calling situation ‘incredibly complex', US State Department says: 'We're continuing to work around clock with governments of Israel, Egypt'

15:25 - 14/05/2024 Salı
File photo
File photo

More than 20 US doctors are trapped in the Gaza Strip due to the closure of the Rafah border crossing into Egypt by Israel after the invasion in the region, according to media reports on Tuesday.

Last week, the Israeli army invaded the eastern area of Rafah, seizing control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing with Egypt, effectively closing Gaza's only gateway to the outside world and blocking fuel, food, and water from entering, resulting in severe dehydration among the general population and the doctors on mission.

Despite assurances from the State Department to the relatives of the doctors regarding ongoing rescue efforts, which included coordination with the UN and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), an incident occurred on Monday when the Israeli military fired on a UN vehicle en route to the European Hospital in Khan Younis, near Rafah, resulting in the death of a UN employee and injury to another, according to media outlet The Intercept.

A relative of one of the doctors stuck at the European Hospital expressed suspicion that the vehicle might have been part of the rescue operation but was unsure, it added.

“We are aware that a car that is similarly supposed to be their rescue passage was shot at and UN employees were killed and injured and we fear for their ability to have a safe passage and exit.

“We are aware that there is active shelling around the hospital and that staff has been told to stay away from windows,” said the family member, according to the media outlet.

Among the doctors stranded is Adam Hamawy, a plastic surgeon and army veteran from New Jersey.

He was on duty in Iraq when now-Senator Tammy Duckworth's severely injured body was brought to the hospital after her helicopter was shot down, and she credits him with saving her life.

Sami Shaban, a friend of Hamawy who has been in contact with him in recent days, stated that the veteran is physically well, describing him as resilient.

Shaban, who has lost 35 family members in the Strip, emphasized the urgent need to bring Hamawy and others home, expressing frustration over the bombing of hospitals and the necessity of allowing relief personnel in and out.

- Risk of dehydration

The doctors are conserving water, and at least one physician is experiencing health issues and receiving intravenous fluids to address dehydration, according to The Intercept.

This critical situation highlights the extreme challenges faced by ordinary Palestinians, who have endured seven months of Israeli siege and bombing, contrasting with the recent arrival of the medical mission.

Over one million Palestinians are confined to Rafah, located at the southern tip of the Gaza Strip. With a looming full-scale invasion of Rafah, Israeli troops recently entered the area and assumed control of the crossing into Egypt.

The doctors belong to two medical missions, one arranged by FAJR Scientific, which has yet to comment, while the organization behind the second mission remains unknown.

“The people on the ground always said once you all are gone and not allowed in, we're gonna be destroyed like Al-Shifa,” said doctor Mohammed Khaleel, who recently returned from the latest mission held by FAJR on Monday, referring to Gaza's largest hospital, which Israel has frequently targeted.

“I guess we were all hoping that wouldn't be allowed to happen,” Khaleel expressed in a recent interview on The Intercept podcast, referring to his experience.

He has also communicated with doctors involved in the current mission and mentioned they are optimistic about their chances of leaving this week.

He stated that the FAJR mission was instructed to vacate its safe house because it was deemed unsafe.

- US State Department calls situation ‘incredibly complex'

On this very issue, the US State Department answered questions during its daily briefing on Monday.

“We're aware of these reports of US citizens, doctors and medical professionals currently unable to leave Gaza,” the State Department said.

Mentioning that the US forces do not have control over the border crossings in the region, the department described what has been going on there as “an incredibly complex situation.”

“We're continuing to work around the clock with the government of Israel, and with the government of Egypt to work on this issue,” it stressed.

About the humanitarian situation in the region, the department stated: “It is a crisis. No amount of humanitarian aid at this present moment is enough.”

“We need to be doing everything we can to get more humanitarian aid, food, medicine, water or other appropriate supplies into Gaza,” it emphasized.

“We have been engaging directly with partners in the region to ensure that every crossing possible that can allow for the access of trucks and other things is able to make its way into Gaza,” it indicated.

“You have seen us undertake airdrops, you've seen our partners in Jordan undertake airdrops and we're continuing to press and hope that this maritime corridor is a conduit and we believe that will be the case very soon as well,” it added.

Despite warnings from Israel's allies, including the US, Tel Aviv insists that attacks on Rafah will continue.

More than 35,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been killed and almost 79,000 injured amid mass destruction and shortages of necessities in Tel Aviv's war on Gaza.

International organizations, including UN agencies, have demanded a cease-fire in Gaza and increased humanitarian aid access to address medical shortages, hunger, thirst, and hygiene deficiencies leading to diseases in Gaza.

The Israeli war has pushed 85% of Gaza's population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water, and medicine, while 60% of the enclave's infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice. An interim ruling ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.

1 ay önce