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In Egyptian hospitals, an opaque window on Gaza war

Denied access to Gaza, a reporter draws on firsthand accounts from the Palestinian wounded taken to Egypt.

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Few of the medics are able to sleep at the al-Arish Public Hospital 30 miles from the Rafah border crossing into the besieged Gaza Strip.

On Wednesday evening, doctors and nurses huddled around a 14-inch television broadcasting news of the war between Hamas and Israel. As soon as they hear more sirens approaching the hospital, they scatter to treat the injured. So far the conflict has killed at least 1,067 and wounded more than 5,000 Palestinians. Many of the worst cases are taken here to al-Arish or to Cairo for treatment.

"We are growing accustomed to seeing images of the wounded on television and the following day seeing them in reality here in the hospital," says Ahmad Zaafan, one of the two psychiatrists working with the rescue team in al-Arish hospital.

He's just finished working with a 4-year-old Gazan girl. "Her two sisters were killed in front of her. She has wounds in different parts of her body and is half paralyzed now."

Dr. Zaafan says that many of the wounded adults arrive "with a defense mechanism. They tell us things like 'we are good,' 'our kids died, but we will give birth to others.' "

The stories told inside this hospital and others in Egypt provide some of the few first-hand accounts available of the fighting.

"A child today told us that there was a raid on his house. Thirty people died and he spent three days there ... until rescue teams could reach him in Gaza," says Ayman al-Hady, head of the medical emergency team in al-Arish Hospital.


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