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Israel Is Trapping Tens of Thousands Who Need Medical Evacuation in Gaza

Over 10,000 cancer patients are trapped in Gaza, with all pedestrian crossings now closed.

Relocation process for the field hospital, established by the U.S.-based International Medical Association, continues as the hospital has ceased its activities due to the ongoing Israeli attacks on the surroundings in Rafah, Gaza, on June 2, 2024.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians who are in dire need of medical evacuation or care that is no longer available in Gaza are trapped in the strip, aid groups are reporting, with Gaza’s last pedestrian border crossing having been closed for a month and Israel blocking cancer and other patients from leaving the region.

Since May 7, Israel has been blocking all medical evacuations from Gaza while also escalating its famine, bombing and forced displacement campaign, creating scores of complex medical cases that can’t be treated due to Israel’s destruction of the health care system in Gaza.

“Egypt has been hosting a significant number of the patients, but the needs are between minimum 7,000 to over 11,000 patients that require evacuation and treatment and support,” said Hanan Balkhy, Eastern Mediterranean regional director for the World Health Organization, in a press briefing on Tuesday, per Reuters.

“You’re talking about compound fractures, skull fractures, compound femur fractures, ruptured visceral organs,” Balkhy continued. “It’s very difficult to find and to quickly transport patients to get that type of care.”

Formerly, a small number of patients in critical condition had been allowed to leave Gaza to obtain care in Egypt or elsewhere through the southern Rafah crossing. But Israel took over and closed the Rafah crossing — both to humanitarian aid entering and to patients and aid workers exiting — in May.

These patients have increasingly dwindling choices for care otherwise. Aid groups have said that Israel has “effectively dismantled” the health care system in Gaza; nearly every hospital in Gaza has been sieged by Israeli forces, ordered to evacuate, or been deprived of essential resources, with no accessible hospitals in northern Gaza at all.

This has left many patients with other conditions that require care trapped without treatment as well. There are over 10,000 Palestinians with cancer and at least 2,000 with other diseases — including hundreds of children — who are trapped in Gaza and in desperate need of treatment elsewhere. For months, border agents have been blocking Palestinian cancer patients from exiting the region, even if they have obtained permission to do so.

These patients include people like Siraj Yassin, whose story was highlighted by Reuters on Tuesday. Yassin is 10 and has leukemia; doctors at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital say he needs treatment they can’t provide, but Yassin is unable to leave Gaza because of Israel’s takeover of the Rafah crossing. For now, doctors can only give Yassin drugs to help treat the pain.

“Two weeks ago, I stopped being able to walk. Every day my condition gets worse and I lose something,” Yassin said. “My bones hurt and everything hurts. I wish to leave Gaza so I can receive the treatment and be able to play like I used to.”

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