Ambulance Trip from Gaza a Harrowing Ride


 
 

Theodore May | | Thursday, January 8, 2009


RAFAH, Egypt -- It's a 2 1/2-hour journey that should take 30 minutes. A hair-raising sprint on dirt roads through bombed-out cities and military checkpoints, all while coping with the ever-present threat of gunfire or a stray bomb.

Such is the ordeal faced by paramedics ferrying patients out of Gaza -- where hospitals are overflowing because of the conflict with Israel -- into neighboring Egypt. Ambulances run by the Red Crescent, the Islamic world's equivalent of the Red Cross, have been busy transporting amputees, spinal cord patients, burn victims and other severe medical cases.

On Wednesday, Israel and Hamas observed a three-hour pause in fighting to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid such as food, fuel and medical supplies into Gaza. Similar lulls will occur in the future, Israel said.

The pauses "will help the movements of the ambulances," said Hesham Hassan, spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross. "But three hours is not enough."

Nearly 3,000 Palestinians have been wounded since the war began Dec. 27, along with 690 dead, according to Associated Press figures based on interviews with Palestinian health officials. Ten Israelis have been killed, Israel's government has said.

Abdel Bassam El Sharafi, 40, often accompanies the wounded in ambulances. The Gaza City doctor was injured in the first week of the fighting when a piece of shrapnel lodged in his back, yet he presses on in spite of the pain.

The most dangerous part of the 25-mile trip from Gaza City to Rafah, El Sharafi said, comes each time they encounter an Israeli army checkpoint.

"We usually stop," he said, "and wait until they wave us through. Last time they shot in our direction."

Hakim El Habashi, a paramedic from south Gaza, noted that slow ambulance response times have led many Gazans to transport the wounded in their own vehicles. This prevents the injured from getting adequate medical care during transport, he said.

Ambulance drivers operate in the extreme stress of a live combat zone, with mortars and rockets often shaking the ambulance and rattling its patients.

"There is a risk on the road from the Israeli bombings," said Ahmed Abdel Wahab, a health official at the Rafah border crossing.

Since the conflict began, Egypt has allowed only medical supplies to cross its border into Gaza. There are signs, though, that the Arab state is loosening its policy slightly as baby formula and dried milk were among the goods permitted to cross Wednesday.

Still, the situation in the Gaza Strip, home to 1.5 million Palestinians, remains critical.

"If electricity is not restored," said Hassan of the Red Cross, "the hospitals, which are running on generators, will soon be unable to provide basic services."




Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: WMD and Terrorism

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS





 

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Simulation-Based Assessment Facilitates Learning & Enhances Clinical Judgment

Simulation is an educational tool that can be used to develop and refine clinical skills of the student in a controlled environment before they progress to becoming practicing clinicians.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

REMSA Programs Helps Reduce Hospital Visits

Community paramedic effort goes into service.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

City Official Challenges San Francisco Fire Chief

Ambulance response times among problems noted by city supervisor.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Texas Ambulance Crash

Victoria ambulance collides with civilian vehicle.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Colorado Medics Ditch Pants for Kilts

“Real men do wear kilts.”
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

CO Leak at Illinois School

Girard incident sends over 130 to hospitals.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Hands On September 2014

Who gets thumbs up this month?
More >


Multimedia Thumb

NYC Sept. 11 Anniversary

View images from the ceremony at Ground Zero.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

The AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher Conversion Kit - EMS Today 2013

AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher all-hazards preparedness & response tool
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

LMA MAD Nasal™

Needle-free intranasal drug delivery.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

VividTrac offered by Vivid Medical - EMS Today 2013

VividTrac, affordable high performance video intubation device.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Field Bridge Xpress ePCR on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Sneak peek of customizable run forms & more.
Watch It >


More Product Videos >