MDA treats victims on both sides

"When there is lifesaving work to be done, it's as if there were no war," official says.

wounded Gazan 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
wounded Gazan 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Some Magen David Adom personnel currently have a surreal job - both treating Israeli victims of Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza and facilitating the transfer of Gazan patients to Israeli hospitals for treatment. "Just today, we transferred three Palestinians from Gaza to Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer for ongoing care," said Dudi Abadi, who coordinates between MDA and the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC). "We are continuing our humanitarian work even though rockets are still being hurled at us from Gaza," he added. "Our medics are exhausted, but when there is lifesaving work to be done and sick and wounded people to be helped, it's as if there were no war. We act according to the Geneva Convention. We save lives, and we hope the conflict will end." Meanwhile, Gaza's eight hospitals that have surgical facilities (out of a total of 14) are stretched beyond their capacity, said Laila Blacing of the ICRC's Jerusalem office, which deals with medical conditions in Gaza. "The hospitals are very full, but they have been coping so far. We have been distributing medical equipment such as medications, dressing and plasma," she said. She noted that some Gaza hospitals urgently needed clean sheets for patients "as sheets were taken to wrap up bodies" of Palestinians killed in Israeli counterattacks. The ICRC has provided 200 pieces of bed linen. Shifa Hospital, Gaza's largest, had to expand its intensive care unit capacity, but its power and water supplies were intact. Fuel supplies were low, Blacing said. Because regular ICUs in Gazan hospitals are full, patients have been moved to specialized ICUs. Blacing added that, according to ICRC reports, "one third of the dead in Gaza are women and children. It's difficult to know among the wounded and dead who are civilians." Blacing said that "there has been damage to civilian areas. We are very concerned, as conditions in hospitals can quickly deteriorate." Both Palestinians and the Israelis "have a responsibility to distinguish between military and civilian areas and to avoid harming civilians," the ICRC official declared. Meanwhile, Egypt on Sunday opened its only crossing to the Gaza Strip to receive wounded Palestinians. Egypt sent 27 ambulances to the Rafah crossing to transfer 150 to 200 wounded Palestinians to hospitals in the Sinai Peninsula and other cities on the mainland, said Emad Kharboush, a medical official at el-Arish Hospital near the Israeli border. This was the first time Egypt has agreed to open the crossing since Hamas blew up part of the border wall on January 23, allowing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to cross over. MDA will train residents of Ashkelon and its environs to administer first aid as well as how to respond when rockets fall. The course is free, and residents can register at 1-700-500-430. Over the weekend, MDA medics were alerted almost every 15 minutes to treat victims in Sderot, Ashkelon and other places within rocket distance from Gaza who were either physically wounded or suffered from shock. AP contributed to this report.