'Being here is a blessing': Gazan cancer patients hail treatment received in Abu Dhabi

Medics in the UAE are providing care for dozens of Palestinians from the besieged enclave

Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest news on Israel-Gaza

Palestinian cancer patients who were flown to the UAE for medical treatment have said they would have died had they stayed in the Gaza Strip.

Many of the patients, who have advanced stages of cancer, have praised the UAE for providing them with treatment, which was halted abruptly in Gaza due to the war in the enclave.

Palestinian patients thank the UAE

Palestinian patients thank the UAE

Awni Saleh, 63, has end-stage lung cancer. He arrived in the UAE on Saturday with his wife and was admitted to the ICU with breathing problems.

I would have died had I remained in Gaza
Awni Qaddur Saleh, 63

It is the first time he has been able to speak in months.

“I would have died had I remained in Gaza,” the father-of-eight tells The National.

“There was no food, no water and I couldn't go to the hospital. I was so sick.

“I am so grateful to the UAE government and President Sheikh Mohamed, I am now getting better.”

Mr Saleh is one of many cancer patients who were transported from Al Arish Airport in Egypt to the UAE for medical treatment, as part of Operation Gallant Knight 3 to support Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Sheikh Mohamed last month directed that 1,000 Palestinian children and 1,000 cancer patients be brought to the UAE for treatment.

The injured will be transported from Gaza and accompanied by their families.

Mr Saleh's wife Fatiyeh Hadi, 62, says she is grateful to the UAE for looking after her husband.

“Just look at the TV and you will see how difficult the situation is,” says Ms Hadi.

“The UAE and the government have saved our lives – particularly cancer patients were treatment is critical and a delay could make the cancer progress.

“They have destroyed all the hospitals and the hospital my husband was getting treated in. He wasn't speaking or eating and constantly had a high fever.

“Seeing him now and a few months ago is like the difference between life and death.”

The couple's home was also destroyed in Israeli air strikes in northern Gaza.

“We had to crawl out from under the rubble and move to the south. Palestine is full of displaced citizens now,” says Mr Saleh.

Top Emirati official visits Palestinian children being treated in UAE hospitals

Top Emirati official visits Palestinian children being treated in UAE hospitals

Huwaida Abo Mostafa is another patient receiving treatment in the UAE.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in September and was on her third dose of chemotherapy at the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital before it ran out of medicine and was later attacked.

The 38-year-old and her husband, Mohammed Mostafa, said they received a text confirming that they would be transported to the UAE for treatment and to head to the Rafah border.

The couple said the journey took them 26 hours.

“It was very difficult to get across the border – there were so many checkpoints and procedures,” Ms Abo Mostafa told The National.

“It still feels like a dream that I am here.”

Mr Mostafa said he had to walk 40km to get fresh water for his wife in Gaza.

“There were no fruits, no rice, no salt or sugar. Everyone was starving,” he said.

The couple's six children, the youngest a one-year-old, are staying with their in-laws in Gaza while they are in the UAE.

Hanan Abo Sumra, 60, was also receiving treatment at the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital in Gaza.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in July and was on her second dose of chemotherapy when the war broke out.

Ms Sumra arrived in the UAE with her husband Jameel, 67, last month to continue her treatment.

“I spoke to my children today and told them that I was going to be OK,” the mother-of-three said.

“I told them that the UAE was taking care of me and I was in safe hands.”

Abdullah Al Najjar, 65, is a carpenter and fisherman, trades he picked up from his father and grandparents.

He has 13 children including seven girls, and six boys who fish who are also fishermen.

While living in Gaza, he built boats which he used to go fishing. But when the war began, Israeli forces burnt his vessels and the sea became off-limits.

Mr Al Najjar arrived in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago to receive urgent medical treatment for colon cancer and needed further chemotherapy after his surgery in June.

“My family is fine but life is so hard. Every minute we expect an air raid. There is no water and food. After they burnt our ships, they also destroyed our livelihood,” he told The National.

“Being here in the UAE is a blessing and we are indebted to the government and the leadership for welcoming us.”

Mr Al Najjar said medical staff in the UAE have looked after him well, with nurses bringing him everything he needs including water, food and painkillers.

“God protect Gaza and the UAE,” he said.

Updated: December 07, 2023, 3:47 PM