Some Palestinian patients in East Jerusalem hospitals will be sent back to Gaza by Israel

Some Palestinian patients in East Jerusalem hospitals will be sent back to Gaza by Israel - Domestic News - News

The Agonizing Dilemma of Palestinian Patients Forced to Return to Gaza Amidst Ongoing Conflict

The Israeli authorities have made preparations to send a group of approximately 22 Palestinian patients, including five newborn infants and their mothers, cancer survivors, and companions, back to the Gaza Strip this week. These individuals had previously been granted permission by Israeli authorities to receive advanced medical care in East Jerusalem hospitals, prior to Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel.

Hospital officials in East Jerusalem have been under pressure from the Israeli defense ministry body responsible for Palestinian affairs, COGAT, to compile a list of patients no longer requiring in-patient medical treatment. According to hospital sources, these patients are expected to depart for the Kerem Shalom crossing on the border between Israel and Gaza on Wednesday.

Among those being sent back is Nima Abu Garrara, a mother from Rafah who gave birth to twins in Makassed Hospital on October 5. Since then, she and her infants have known only the safety of their hospital room. Faced with the imminent prospect of returning to a reality of ongoing conflict, she wept as she pondered the challenges ahead: “If I go back with the twins, where do I go with them? Where would I get diapers and milk?” she questioned, her voice filled with despair. “Gaza is not the same anymore.”

For months, Abu Garrara and two other mothers have shared a small room at the hospital, which has been overflowing with baby accessories. The space is filled with suitcases, duffel bags, and essentials for the infants. Baby bottles, cans of formula, and toys occupy every available table.

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“I might go back and then they invade Rafah,” Abu Garrara said, referring to Israeli military actions. “I’ll be the one responsible for anything that harms them. I was dying when I came here and stayed with them here to protect them,” she added, expressing concern for her twins’ safety.

COGAT confirmed to News Finder that Palestinians from Gaza who no longer require further medical care are being sent back to the Gaza Strip, with international aid organizations facilitating their return. The agency stated that in cases where patients still require medical treatment, COGAT arranges for their stay at hospitals to ensure their health and well-being.

Each of the individuals interviewed by News Finder expressed profound concern about leaving the safety and care provided in East Jerusalem hospitals to return home amidst ongoing conflict. “My daughter is there,” Asmaa Al Dabje, another mother, said. “She needs me. Every time she speaks to me, she asks when I’m coming back. Every time there’s an airstrike, children go to hug their mothers, and mine has no one to hug.”

As a nurse, Al Dabje shared her own feelings of helplessness and betrayal, having lost 43 colleagues during the ongoing conflict. “I have spent the war feeling like I’ve betrayed my professional duty to help,” she said, her voice filled with emotion. “I lost family members, friends, and neighbors. My house is wiped away. I’m afraid that I’ll go back and suddenly regret putting my new child at risk.”

Hannan Sharadan, a mother who had spent seven years trying to conceive before becoming pregnant with twins, expressed her fear and apprehension about returning home: “I’m scared because there’s no ceasefire. Life has become very expensive. There are diseases spreading. Infections. It’s not a normal life.”

This is not the first time that patients from Gaza receiving medical treatment in East Jerusalem hospitals have been forced to return home during ongoing conflict. Before October, a third of those being treated at the Augusta Victoria Hospital were patients from Gaza in need of advanced cancer treatment. “We refused to send them back,” Dr. Fadi Atrash, the CEO of the hospital, said. “And we came to an agreement that they are still under treatment.”

However, Israeli authorities continued to pressure Atrash and his team, leaving them with no other option but to comply. “It’s not our call, at the end of the day,” Atrash explained. “And this is really frustrating. We have not been able to help people in Gaza since the beginning of the war. As doctors, this is our daily feeling, that we are not able to do anything.”

Mohammed, a cancer survivor who asked News Finder not to use his last name for privacy reasons, shared his deep sadness about being separated from his six children since coming to East Jerusalem in late September. “The one that breaks my heart the most is my son Hamza,” he said, explaining that the 11-year-old is blind.

“I’m torn,” Mohammed confessed. “The only wish I have in life is to go back home. I regret even coming here for treatment. I wish I could be with them, because I know how they need me.”

In the crowded room at Makassed Hospital, the women are making preparations for their impending return journey they have no choice but to take. Sweets and snacks have been packed into suitcases, which will soon be dragged across the Kerem Shalom border crossing. Al Dabie, the nurse, shared her desire to return home: “Whatever God wants to happen to us over there will happen over here. I don’t want to stay here. I want to go home.”