Qatar medical aid enters Gaza under first Israel-Hamas deal since November

Gazans receive '1000 boxes of medicine for every box sent to an Israeli hostage' a senior Hamas figure said

Two planes from Qatar containing aid for Gaza, including medicine for hostages, were unloaded at El Arish airport in Egypt on January 17. AFP
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Medical aid for Palestinians in Gaza and Israeli hostages being held by Hamas has entered the Strip on Wednesday night, as part of a deal brokered by Qatar and Paris, the first since the week-long ceasefire in November.

Qatar’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed Al Ansari announced late on Wednesday that the shipment had crossed into Gaza, part of 61 tonnes of aid provided by Qatar.

“Over the past few hours, medicine and aid entered the Gaza Strip, in implementation of the agreement announced yesterday for the benefit of civilians in the Strip, including hostages," Mr Al Ansari wrote on social media platform X.

A senior figure in Hamas, Mousa Abu Marzouq, said the deal stipulates that Gazans receive “1,000 boxes of medicine for every box sent to an Israeli hostage”.

The delivery of medicine to Israeli hostages will be done through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Mr Marzouq said.

The ICRC in Gaza could not be reached for a comment due to communication blackouts in the Strip for a sixth consecutive day.

“The Red Cross will deliver medicines to four hospitals in Gaza,” for distribution to citizens of Gaza and Israeli hostages, the Hamas official said on X.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday, Israeli President Isaac Herzog said he had recently held “a closed meeting with Red Cross representatives in the region who met with hostage families and hostages who have returned to discuss the dire medical situation of the hostages”.

On Wednesday, the World Health Organisation’s Sean Casey warned of “a really horrifying situation in the hospitals” with Palestinians dying daily due to lack of treatment as overstretched medics struggle to deal with the thousands of people injured in Israeli bombardments.

A doctor with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) called the situation in Gaza's hospitals the most extreme she had ever seen.

Dr Seema Jilani, a paediatrician and the IRC's senior technical adviser for emergency health, previously worked in warzones including Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon.

“This is the most extreme situation I have seen in terms of scale, severity of injuries [and] number of children that have suffered that have nothing to do with any of this.”

Mr Casey and Dr Jilani recently left Gaza after weeks working in hospitals there.

Mr Casey described Al Shifa Hospital, once Gaza’s leading hospital with 700 beds, being reduced to treating only emergency trauma victims, and sheltering thousands of displaced people.

“Literally five or six doctors or nurses” are seeing hundreds of patients a day, Mr Casey said, most with life-threatening injuries, and there were “so many patients on the floor you could barely move without stepping on somebody’s hands or feet”.

The situation at Al Ahli Hospital, in Gaza city, is also dire.

“I saw patients who were lying on church pews, basically waiting to die in a hospital that had no fuel, no power, no water, very little in the way of medical supplies and only a handful of staff remaining to take care of them,” Mr Casey said.

The death toll has surpassed 24,000 people and more than 61,500 have been injured since the Israel-Gaza war began on October 7.

Gaza's health ministry warned this week that 350,000 patients with chronic illnesses have no access to medication.

Only 15 out of Gaza's 36 hospitals are still partially functioning, nine in the south and six in the north, according to the WHO.

Updated: January 18, 2024, 10:24 AM