Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Gaza hospital defies Israel evacuation warning amid fears for frail patients

It was a heart-wrenching scene of defiance and pathos. As 16 mostly elderly and terminally ill patients lay stricken in their hospital beds, Dr Basman Alashi vowed that he would never leave them, regardless of the physical dangers and an Israeli warning that the surrounding neighbourhood must be evacuated.

Dr Alashi, executive director of Wafa Hospital in Gaza’s Shujaiyya district, judged that the patients – most of whom are receiving rehabilitation treatment – were too ill to be moved.

When an Israeli military officer called the hospital late on Tuesday warning that it must be evacuated by 8am the following morning, he called in the World Health Organisation (WHO), arguing that such a move would risk the lives of patients.

The WHO – the United Nations’ health body – responded by communicating his concerns to Israeli military authorities. On Wednesday, while many inhabitants of Gaza’s Shujaiyya, Zeitoun and Beit Lahiya were on the move in response to Israeli bombardment warnings – relayed by recorded phone message and mass leaflet drops – Dr Alashi, 16 medical staff members and the same number of patients stayed behind. They were joined by eight foreign activists, including one Briton, who have volunteered to act as human shields at the hospital. more


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