(CTN News) – One of Gaza’s first evacuees to the United Arab Emirates for urgent medical treatment is stretchered onto a plane to Abu Dhabi clutching a blown-up surgical glove.
The child is carried carefully from the back of one of six yellow ambulances waiting near the runway at Egypt’s El Arish airport, near the Rafah border crossing from Gaza, in the dead of night.
There are eight children in various stages of injury and distress aboard the plane when a hydraulic platform lifts their wheeled stretchers into the back of the plane. They are accompanied by relatives in some cases.
The lucky ones are being transported away from the dangers and trauma of the Israel-Hamas conflict to quiet, well-equipped hospitals in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates.
In response to Hamas gunmen attacking Israel on October 7 and killing 1,200 people, Israeli officials vowed to destroy the militants. They have responded with an air and ground offensive that has resulted in 12,000 deaths in Gaza.
According to the health ministry, 5,000 children in Gaza have been killed – an average of 122 each day – and 30,000 have been injured.
Approximately 1,000 children are expected to be airlifted to the UAE for medical care from the initial group of evacuated children who arrived in Abu Dhabi on Saturday morning.
Among the children, one has a fractured spine and another has a broken leg. There are others who have burns, and one who requires urgent treatment for cancer.
Two more passengers with severe injuries did not board the flight and are expected to board the next flight. An aid official told AFP that the humanitarian airlifts of children will now be carried out on a daily basis.
It is a case of ‘losing lives’
According to Mohammed Al Kaabi from the Emirates Red Crescent humanitarian organization, the situation in Gaza is “catastrophic” and requires daily evacuations due to injuries, hospitals that are out of service, and a shortage of medicines.
It is our hope that during the next week we will have evacuated as many people as possible, as time is of the essence and lives are at risk.”
A boy with a braced and bandaged leg, and a weary expression on his face, flashes two fingers in the order of “Victory” as he is carried to the waiting ambulance in Abu Dhabi in the morning light.
He cries as he is pushed across the tarmac in a wheelchair while clutching a white bottle of milk and wearing a bandage on his right leg.
The UAE has undertaken a number of humanitarian initiatives, including the airlifts.
As part of a $20 million aid package, 51 planes carrying 1,400 tonnes of food and relief supplies have been dispatched by the UAE.
Gaza’s hospitals have been running out of basic supplies and are unable to deal with the large number of injuries sustained during the ongoing conflict.
Hundreds of Gazans fled on foot on Saturday after Israel ordered the evacuation of Gaza’s main hospital, Al-Shifa, where it is searching for a Hamas operations center that it believes lies beneath.