A Gaza Doctor's Fear: Displacement, Detention Or Death


(MENAFN- The Peninsula) The Washington Post

Jerusalem: Even after four months of the most grueling and gruesome work of his life, the anesthesiologist wanted to stay at his post at Nasser Hospital last month when the Israeli tanks closed in.

But doctors, he fretted, face one of three fates in wartime Gaza: displacement, detention or death.

He'd seen Israeli forces disappear doctors during raids on the enclave's besieged and collapsing hospitals. He feared being accused of supporting Hamas, being made to strip and sit blindfolded, seeing photos of the humiliation shared online. He'd heard about the abuse Palestinians endured in Israel's secretive detention sites for Gazans.

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But the anesthesiologist had six children and a large extended family in Rafah that relied on him. So it was with a heavy heart, he said, that he fled the hospital on Jan. 26 and joined the Gaza Strip's growing cadre of displaced medical workers.

"There was a lot of gunshots, a lot of destruction, and I had to leave because I have a big family I'm responsible for,” he said by phone from Rafah, where he now lives in a nylon tent. He described his experience to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity to protect his safety.

The anesthesiologist fled Khan Younis with three other medical workers, but he was the only one to make it south to the relative safety of Rafah. Israeli forces controlled the war-broken roads thick with fleeing refugees, and the trek spooked his colleagues. They headed back to the hospital in two groups. One colleague was shot along the way, the anesthesiologist said.

He believes his three colleagues are now among the 70 doctors, nurses and medical technicians from Nasser Hospital that the Gaza Health Ministry says have been detained by Israeli forces. He thinks he made it through checkpoints because he was carrying a baby that he found abandoned in the chaos of the evacuation.

More than 100 medical professionals are in Israeli detention, their exact whereabouts and condition unknown, according to the health ministry. The rest are most likely displaced; like the rest of the population, most doctors in north and central Gaza, scenes of the fiercest fighting for much of the war, have fled their homes and communities for the south, ministry official Ahmed Shatat told The Post.

Most live in tents, Shatat said, where they are receiving partial or no salaries. They devote their days to trying to find food and water so they and their families can survive.

Many fear returning to the medical sector and its acute crises. Gaza's 2.1 million people are on the brink of famine, according to the United Nations, and infectious diseases are spreading. Ultimately, analysts and aid workers warn, hunger and disease could kill more people in the conflict than Israeli weapons.

Now few of Gaza's hospitals and medical facilities remain even partially open.

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