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HomeWorldMiddle EastFirst ambulances arrive in Egypt with injured Palestinians from Gaza

First ambulances arrive in Egypt with injured Palestinians from Gaza

The first ambulances carrying wounded Palestinians from war-torn Gaza entered Egypt through the Rafah crossing on Wednesday.

The Israeli army has launched a ground offensive it said is aimed at destroying Hamas infrastructure and vowed to eliminate the entire terrorist group that rules the Strip. Israel said it was striking all areas where Hamas operates, while trying to minimise civilian casualties and urging civilians to evacuate to southern Gaza. Israel accuses Hamas of using Gazans as human shields.

The war between Israel and Hamas has caused a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, where hospitals are struggling to cope with the large number of wounded and a severe shortage of medicines.

Television footage showed Egyptian nurses and ambulance workers examining wounded Palestinians and then carrying them on stretchers to Egyptian ambulances. At least one child was seen in one of the ambulances. Officials said about 90 of the most seriously wounded would be allowed through the border for treatment in Egyptian hospitals. On the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing, an AFP correspondent saw 40 ambulances, each carrying two people.

Patients will be placed in different hospitals, including a field hospital in Sheikh Zuweid, 15 kilometres from Rafah. According to local media reports, other patients will be taken to a hospital in El Arish, located 30 kilometres to the west, while the most complicated cases will be sent to Cairo.

Egypt also allowed hundreds of foreign passport holders to cross the border for the first time since the war between Israel and Hamas began. Some 400-500 foreigners and dual nationals were expected to cross the border on Wednesday.

According to an anonymous diplomatic source, the crossing was opened following an agreement between Egypt, Israel and the rulers of the Gaza Strip, brokered by Qatar and in coordination with the US.

The war began on 7 October when some 2,500 Hamas terrorists crossed into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea under the cover of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli cities and towns. The vast majority of those killed in the terrorist takeover of border communities were civilians – infants, children and the elderly. Entire families were shot in their homes and more than 260 people were shot at an open-air festival, many of them killed in horrific terrorist atrocities. More than 240 people of all ages were kidnapped and taken captive in Gaza.

According to foreign governments, passport holders from 44 countries, as well as representatives of 28 agencies, including UN entities, live in the Gaza Strip, where 2.4 million people have endured more than three weeks of relentless Israeli bombardment following Hamas attacks.

The Gaza Strip, where 2.4 million people have been under relentless Israeli bombardment for more than three weeks following Hamas attacks, is home to passport holders from 44 countries and representatives of 28 agencies, including UN entities, according to foreign governments.

The small coastal region is also facing “catastrophic” shortages of food, water and electricity as the Israeli government has declared a total siege of the Gaza Strip in response to the attacks, which have become the deadliest in Israeli history and the worst single-day extermination of the Jewish population since the Holocaust.

Israel fears that Hamas could use food, water and medical supplies entering Gaza or that aid shipments could hide weapons or other items. As a result, Israeli security services have been conducting strict checks that have slowed the flow of aid.

The Gaza Health Ministry says more than 8,500 people have been killed in the enclave, a figure that cannot be confirmed by independent experts. Hamas has been accused of artificially inflating the death toll and of failing to distinguish between civilians and militants. The terror group has denied the accusations, publishing a list of names of the dead.

The Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing is the main entry and exit point into Gaza from Egypt and is located in a region tightly controlled by the Egyptian military, which is fighting an Islamist insurgency that peaked after 2013 and is now largely suppressed.

As Egypt fears insecurity, only those authorised by Egyptian authorities are allowed to enter the Rafah crossing. The limited evacuation is not expected to lead to a longer and unrestricted opening of the crossing.

Egypt, which along with Israel has maintained a blockade of the Gaza Strip since Hamas took power in 2007, rejects the idea of a mass movement of Palestinians fleeing Gaza into the country’s Sinai region.

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