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Brussels asks EU countries to accept patients evacuated from Gaza

Palestinian medics treat a wounded person as the other one carries a young wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip at the Kuwaiti Hospital in Rafah refugee camp,
Palestinian medics treat a wounded person as the other one carries a young wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip at the Kuwaiti Hospital in Rafah refugee camp, Copyright Ismael Abu Dayyah/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Ismael Abu Dayyah/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Mared Gwyn Jones
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The call comes after the World Health Organisation said 9,000 Palestinians need urgent medical evacuation from the war-torn enclave.

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Brussels has called on EU health and civil protection ministers to indicate their "readiness" to accept patients from Gaza.

In a letter seen by Euronews, the bloc's health commissioner Stella Kyriakides and crisis management commissioner Janez Lenarčič ask national governments to accept patients suffering severe injuries and chronic illnesses whose lives are at risk due to the immense pressure on hospitals in the Gaza Strip.

It comes after the World Health Organisation (WHO) formally requested assistance under the bloc's Civil Protection Mechanism - its emergency response system - and provided the EU with a list of 109 severely ill and injured children needing urgent treatment.

"It is crucial that we act swiftly to ensure the safe evacuation of these patients to hospitals outside of Gaza where they can receive the life-saving treatment they urgently need," the letter reads.

"This requires a coordinated effort involving the international community, including European countries, to provide the necessary logistical, medical, and financial support," it adds.

Both commissioners call on the governments to show "support and solidarity."

Since the war in Gaza erupted following Hamas' attack on Israel on October 7th, the EU has committed €193 million in humanitarian aid to Palestinians. It has also established an air bridge operation that has delivered over 2,000 tonnes of critical humanitarian cargo, and contributed to the activation of a maritime corridor connecting Gaza with Cyprus.

But despite humanitarian efforts, over 35,000 Palestinians have lost their lives in the conflict, and seriously ill and injured civilians are trapped in the besieged enclave. 

The evacuations would be the first of their kind and would take place under the so-called Medevac scheme, first established to facilitate the medical evacuation of patients from war-torn Ukraine to hospitals across the bloc.

The commissioners say that the EU executive and member states have gained a "wealth of experience" from evacuation operations in Ukraine that can be used to support the most vulnerable in Gaza.

"While we are aware of the practical and administrative complexities of this operation, we are convinced that this can be overcome by making a collective European effort," the letter adds.

The WHO says there are just 10 "minimally functional" hospitals remaining in the densely populated enclave, where some two million Palestinians reside. This is down from 36 hospitals prior to the war, many of which have been destroyed by Israel airstrikes.

The UN agency also says 9,000 patients urgently need to be taken abroad for lifesaving treatment. Of them, 109 have been included on a list shared with EU member states and partner countries.

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