화요일, 4월 16, 2024
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The First Flight of Their Lives: An Airlift After Agony Terror in Gaza


Nariman El-Mofty and

Nariman El-Mofty spent eight days with a gaggle of Gazan youngsters and their caretakers and joined them on an Italian navy flight from Cairo to Rome, then to Pisa, Italy. She traveled with two households in ambulances to a hospital in Bologna, Italy, the place the youngsters are receiving remedy.

Every of the youngsters survived horrors. Every misplaced family members within the strikes that injured them. All have struggled with the feelings of what they went by means of and what they face forward.

The evacuees make up solely a tiny fraction of the hundreds of civilians, together with many youngsters, who’ve suffered grievous accidents over the course of Israel’s monthslong marketing campaign in opposition to Hamas and its bombardment of Gaza. Well being officers within the territory say that greater than 31,000 Gazans have been killed because the warfare started on Oct. 7, in response to the assault that Hamas led in opposition to Israel. Specialists say that youngsters are significantly susceptible to burns and severe accidents from high-intensity assaults, particularly in a crowded, city atmosphere like Gaza.

The explosion that injured Shaymaa, 5, within the southern Gazan village of Al Mawasi in January, killed her grandmother, badly injured her grandfather and mangled the woman’s foot, in response to Lina Gamal, Shaymaa’s aunt.

Shaymaa was rushed to Nasser Hospital, the place docs rapidly determined to amputate. They not had anesthesia, alcohol or different means to scrub the wound, forcing the docs to rinse it with murky water. They carried out a speedy surgical procedure and hurried to assist different wounded folks crowding the halls, Ms. Gamal mentioned.

For 3 days, Ms. Gamal mentioned, Shaymaa was “all the time screaming.”

Ms. Gamal stayed at her niece’s facet by means of sleepless nights. Like many others, she registered the injured baby for an opportunity to evacuate, by means of help teams and a number of other governments, to a hospital overseas — perhaps Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey or Italy. Ms. Gamal supplied herself as a caretaker, as Shaymaa’s mother and father wanted to take care of her siblings.

It was not till February, after prolonged background checks and negotiations — between officers of these international locations and Egypt and Israel, in addition to help teams — that Shaymaa realized she was within the small group chosen to evacuate, Ms. Gamal mentioned. From round Gaza, the youngsters and their caretakers journeyed towards the border metropolis of Rafah, going through Israeli shelling and determined competitors for meals, Ms. Gamal mentioned. From there they crossed into Egypt, the place they have been airlifted to Italy, on what for all of them was the primary flight of their lives.

On the Rizzoli Orthopedic Institute in Bologna, although, docs concluded that Shaymaa would want a second amputation to restore the harm from the place her foot was eliminated and to cease an an infection from spreading, Ms. Gamal mentioned.

When Ms. Gamal heard the information, she collapsed to the ground, sobbing. She had watched Shaymaa develop into withdrawn and fearful after the primary amputation, hardly ever laughing and sometimes crying at a glimpse of her leg.

“After they change her dressing, she doesn’t prefer to see it. She begins to scream,” Ms. Gamal mentioned. “Each time she sees her leg, she screams, ‘Cowl me! Cowl me!’ — not for folks, for herself. She doesn’t need to see it.”

Shaymaa discovered some consolation with one other evacuee, Sarah Yusuf, and her caretaker, Niveen Foad. Sarah, 5, had been badly injured in November in a strike that hit her household’s dwelling, in Zawaida close to Deir al Balah in central Gaza. The assault left her pregnant mom partly paralyzed, her father lacking and her 2-year-old brother killed, mentioned Ms. Foad, a cousin of Sarah’s father.

She mentioned she had discovered the woman with widespread burns and a damaged pelvis on the European Hospital in Khan Younis, in southern Gaza.

“Once I noticed her, Sarah was in a horrible state,” mentioned Ms. Foad, 44. “The marks are nonetheless there. Her legs have been all wrapped up. I made a decision from that second that I’ll foster this baby.”

By then, Ms. Foad had fled along with her family from Gaza Metropolis, in search of refuge from combating and Israeli strikes. She instructed her youngsters to stroll at a distance from each other, as she mentioned armies did.

“I advised my youngsters, let’s not stroll subsequent to one another, we should always not stroll facet by facet,” Ms. Foad mentioned. “We are going to stroll just like the navy — one right here, one there, one there — in order that if a bomb falls, we are going to all not die.”

Her youngsters resisted, saying they’d fairly maintain palms and keep shut, she mentioned.

After Sarah took shelter with them, Ms. Foad’s husband registered the woman for evacuation. Ms. Foad agreed to be her caretaker — it was unclear who else might — on the situation that she might deliver her three daughters, ages 3, 9 and 13. Officers agreed, they usually ultimately crossed into Egypt, she mentioned.

Ms. Gamal mentioned she had been to Egypt earlier than the warfare, however nobody else within the group mentioned they’d ever left Gaza. None had ever boarded a aircraft, not to mention flown. The pilots invited the youngsters to see the cockpit of the navy aircraft, and Italian medics introduced toys.

A few of the ladies requested whether or not all planes appeared like this on the within — they’d seen photos of economic flights, not cavernous navy carriers — and the youngsters stared out the home windows in surprise on the waves and landscapes beneath.

Nervousness in regards to the future adopted. Many of the ladies had hoped to achieve Qatar, the place they may discover family members or associates. The evacuees knew little to nothing about Italy, its language or its tradition. Nor did they know, on arrival, whether or not they must search asylum, be allowed to deliver household or be pressured to go away.

And regardless of the nice and cozy welcome from Italian officers and docs, the youngsters couldn’t shed reminiscences of Gaza. One morning in Monza, Italy, the sight of a aircraft over the hospital room of Abdel Rahman Al Naasan, 5, crammed him with concern.

“He thought it could bomb us,” mentioned his grandmother, Rehab Al Naasan. “He closed his eyes. He put his palms on his ears and leaned on the bottom. He’s terrified. This entire technology of kids is terrified.”

When his household’s neighborhood in northern Gaza was bombarded in early December, three items of shrapnel struck Abdel Rahman, fracturing his cranium. His 8-year-old brother was killed, Ms. Al Naasan mentioned.

The survivors raced Abdel Rahman to a hospital, the place displaced folks thronged and the injured screamed on the ground, she mentioned. There was no clear water or meals, and Ms. Al Naasan mentioned they needed to seek for a health care provider to sew the boy’s wound and bandage his head. That was all they may do.

By the point he and his grandmother reached Egypt, small issues terrified him. At evening in Gaza, he would urge his grandmother to show off a flashlight, fearing it could result in an airstrike, Ms. Al Naasan mentioned. When Italian officers welcomed him in Egypt, he clutched his grandmother’s hand, frightened they have been really Israelis. When he was advised in regards to the plan to go to Italy, Abdel Rahman mentioned, “What if there will probably be bombing there? I don’t need to go,” in response to Ms. Al Naasan.

Italian docs at San Gerardo Hospital in Monza, who evaluated the boy, mentioned they have been astounded by his situation: They feared he could be doing far worse with three items of shrapnel nonetheless in his cranium. He would want intensive surgical procedure and a prolonged restoration.

Shaymaa, too, would have a protracted interval of convalescence, rising near Sarah on the facility in Bologna, the place workers members tried to consolation them. Lots of the evacuated Gazans exchanged WhatsApp numbers, checking in on each other as they realized find out how to navigate Italy and as they weighed whether or not to use for asylum — a choice that might hold them there indefinitely.

Ms. Gamal mentioned she remained conflicted about in search of asylum, torn between hope to sometime return to Gaza and the truth of what she noticed. “Truthfully, Gaza is destroyed,” she mentioned. “If folks need to return to their houses, there aren’t any houses.”

Ms. Al Naasan, alternatively, was inclined to remain. “There may be nothing to return to,” she mentioned. “Our kids can’t eat, they hold crying. No meals, no flour. The remainder of my household would die to return right here. I hope I’m able to deliver them, as a result of take a look at it and what it has develop into. It’s not a spot to stay in any respect.”

For now, Abdel Rahman stays on the hospital together with his grandmother. With Sarah awaiting surgical procedure, Ms. Foad and her youngsters moved into an house for refugees in Bologna. Ms. Gamal and Shaymaa are at a ladies’s dwelling, alongside refugees from Ukraine and Somalia, ready for a prosthetic and making hospital visits for remedy.

All of them really feel aid to be out of Gaza and fear about everybody else nonetheless there.

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