A Palestinian man reacts as he says goodbye to his sick daughter before leaving the Gaza Strip to get treatment abroad through the Kerem Shalom crossing, in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, June 27, 2024.

It was an emotional day for families who said a tearful goodbye to over a dozen critically ill children cleared to leave Gaza for treatment abroad on Thursday, June 27. Israeli authorities say 68 people — 19 sick or wounded children plus their companions — have been allowed out of the Gaza Strip and into Egypt in the first medical evacuation since early May when the territory’s sole travel crossing was shut down after Israel captured it.

Kamela Abukweik burst into tears after her son got on the bus heading to the crossing with her mother. Neither she nor her husband are able to leave. “He has tumors spread all over his body and we don’t know what the reason is. And he constantly has a fever,” she said. “I still don’t know where he is going.”

Nour Abu Zahri wept as he kissed his young daughter goodbye. The girl has severe burns on her head from an Israeli airstrike. Similar to Abukweik, he said he is not allowed to leave Gaza with her, although her mother was able to. “It’s been almost 10 months, and there is no solution for the hospitals here,” he said.

Most hospitals in Gaza have been shut down

The nearly nine-month Israel-Hamas war has devastated Gaza’s health sector and forced most of its hospitals to shut down. Dr. Mohammed Zaqout, the head of Gaza’s hospitals, said over 25,000 patients require treatment abroad, including some 980 children with cancer, a quarter of whom need “urgent and immediate evacuation.”

International criticism is growing over Israel’s campaign against Hamas as Palestinians face severe and widespread hunger. The eight-month war has largely cut off the flow of food, medicine and basic goods to Gaza, and people there are now totally dependent on aid. The top United Nations court has concluded there is a “plausible risk of genocide” in Gaza — a charge Israel strongly denies.

Israel launched the war in Gaza after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killed some 1,200 people – mostly civilians – and abducted about 250.

Since then, Israeli ground offensives and bombardments have killed more than 37,600 people in Gaza, according to the territory’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count. Officials have stated that gunfire, lawlessness and gang-like looters are preventing aid distribution in Gaza.

Israel appears to be acting on requests for speeding up humanitarian aid

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Israel appears to be acting on requests for speeding up humanitarian aid deliveries into Gaza but that its commitments need to be fully implemented to secure the safe delivery of assistance to civilians in dire need.

Blinken said Thursday that he had raised the matter with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at a meeting in Washington earlier this week and told him of the “urgent challenges” that need to be addressed to keep aid flowing into areas in desperate need of food, water, medicine and other basic necessities.

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“Over the past week or so, we’ve been working to address urgent challenges that are making it difficult to deliver the necessary humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza who so desperately need it, particularly when it comes to the security of deliveries and those delivering the assistance,” Blinken said before meeting with the UN’s coordinator for Gaza aid, Sigrid Kaag, at the State Department. “I raised these concerns clearly and directly with Israel’s Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, who was here just a few days ago, and I think we’ve seen over the last couple of days some progress in Israel committing to address some of these,” Blinken said.

980 children with cancer need ‘urgent and immediate evacuation’

At a press conference at Nasser Hospital on Thursday, Dr. Mohammed Zaqout, the head of Gaza’s hospitals, said the children’s medical evacuations were facilitated by the World Health Organization and three American charities.

In general, over 25,000 patients in Gaza require treatment abroad, Zaqout added, including some 980 children with cancer, a quarter of whom need “urgent and immediate evacuation.”

He said the cases included in Thursday’s evacuation are “a drop in the ocean” and that the complicated route through Kerem Shalom and into Egypt cannot serve as an alternative to the Rafah crossing. Egypt has refused to reopen its side of the crossing until the Gaza side is returned to Palestinian control.

Le Monde with AP

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