In Egypt, wounded Gazans get medical care on French hospital ship

AFP , Monday 22 Jan 2024

On a French warship off the Egyptian coast, wounded Palestinians receive the healthcare that has become largely unobtainable in the besieged Gaza Strip after months of war.

Arish French hospital ship - Gaza war
Palestinian patients sit in their beds onboard the French LHD Dixmude military ship, which serves as a hospital to treat wounded Palestinians, as it docks at the Egyptian port of Al-Arish on January 21, 2024. AFP


Sitting in a wheelchair, Abdulrahman Iyad wrings his hands in his lap, resting them gently near pins protruding from his thighs.

He scrolls through his phone, looking at photos of his family, all killed in the blast that tore his own face apart.

"I was sent flying through the air and hit the wall of our neighbour's house, my leg was trapped under the caved-in ceiling," Iyad told AFP on the French helicopter carrier Dixmude, which is being used as a hospital to treat wounded Palestinian civilians.

"When I woke up in hospital, my uncles told me they had visited me, but I couldn't remember a thing."

Iyad's home, like much of besieged Gaza has been reduced to rubble by Israel's brutal war on the Palestinian territory.

Israel's air and ground invasion has killed at least 25,105 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Search-and-rescue missions have become nearly impossible in the territory, meaning thousands have been left trapped and presumed dead under the rubble, medics say.

The healthcare system has almost entirely collapsed, with hospitals overwhelmed and doctors having to treat a growing number of casualties with dwindling resources.

'Shocked' by wounded civilians

The French warship began treating patients in November, off the coast of the port of El-Arish, 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of the Egyptian border with Gaza.

In the hull of the vessel, a handful of patients and their families gathered around a table, listlessly playing a card game.

Among them was Nesma Abu Gayad, a bright-eyed Palestinian who was seriously injured when her home was shelled.

"I was treated at a few hospitals in Gaza, before arriving in Egypt," she told AFP, the stump of her right foot floating above the ground from her wheelchair.

"The next step will be a prosthetic, but I have to get a referral and travel to get it abroad."

French doctor Marine, who is serving aboard the Dixmude and only gave her first name, said the warship has so far received 120 patients, all serious cases who needed long periods of hospitalisation.

That is just a tiny minority of the more than 62,000 people who have been injured in Gaza, according to the territory's health ministry.

Another French doctor on the Dixmude, Salle, said she was shocked by the injuries that she had come across.

"I'm in the military, so I deal with the war wounds of our French and allied servicemen," she said.

"But what shocked me was to find them on civilians."

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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