“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18)
Fifteen days into Operation Protective Edge, the IDF has gone and done something quite remarkable. The army set up a field hospital near the border with Gaza to treat the injured and wounded caught in the crosshairs of the conflict in Gaza.
Israel has a long history of providing medical treatment to those in need, especially to Palestinians in need. The IDF however, took the humanitarian spirit up a notch by opening a field hospital at the Erez crossing, right next to where the first Israeli was murdered during the current operation.
The field hospital, which is strategically located between Israel and the Gaza Strip, will serve as an emergency clinic, providing medical services for injured Palestinians from Gaza. The hospital will also have a fully equipped delivery room for expectant mothers.
A statement on Sunday was published by the IDF which said: “The hospital will include an emergency clinic, pediatric and gynecological services, a delivery room and even overnight hospitalization when needed. The staff will include doctors, nurses, x-ray technicians and lab technicians.”
Thus far, hospitals in Gaza have been ill equipped to handle those injured by the current round of fighting. As reported in the Times of Israel, the Shifa hospital in Gaza is struggling to reach those in need of care, with many wounded people having to walk for hours in order to receive treatment.
Casualties are being brought in at a very rapid rate, some in ambulances, others in cars and trucks, and many of them were children who were wounded as a result of being too close to the fighting. Despite Israel’s repeated warnings to Palestinians in Gaza to evacuate their homes, many ignored Israel’s pleas.
Gaza’s Wafa hospital, east of Shuja’iya, the neighborhood that Hamas has been developing for some time as their stronghold, stockpiling munitions among one of the most densely populated neighborhoods of Gaza City, was attacked in an Israeli airstrike. The attack came after the IDF found that Hamas was continuously launching rockets from the roof of and around the hospital, the army said. The hospital administration had been repeatedly warned to evacuate the area hours before the attack.
Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Major Yoav Mordechai, explained that the field hospital aims to treat mainly Palestinians who have been injured in the current conflict, including providing EMS services as well as helping women, children and the elderly who are in need of medical treatment. Those whose injuries require additional care will be transferred to Israeli Hospitals.
The announcement followed upon Israel’s acceptance of a brief humanitarian cease-fire suggested by the International Red Cross and coincided with Israel’s allowing the entry of truckloads of medical supplies into Gaza.
This is not the first time Israel has set up a field hospital at the Erez Crossing. As hostilities between Israel and Gaza drew to a close in January 2009, Israel’s Magen David Adom (MDA) emergency services set up a medical center for injured and sick civilians from Gaza in cooperation with the Department of Health.
The IDF is considered a specialist at setting up field hospitals in extreme situations. In January 2010, the IDF set up a field hospital in the Haitian capital of Port-Au-Prince in the wake of a deadly earthquake. The following March, the IDF again set up a field hospital in Japan after a devastating tsunami. In both instances Israel won widespread praise for the speed at which it began operating the hospital, and at the superior medical facilities it offered.