Prior to the recent Hamas-Fatah infighting and amid the uncertainty looming over Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, two Israeli doctors and volunteers at the Physicians for Human Rights organization in Israel, obtained special entry permits allowing them to cross into the Gaza Strip last week and perform some complex plastic and orthopedic surgeries on children from Gaza City and Khan Younis.
Dr. Kassis Shukri, a plastic surgery specialist from Ziv Medical Center in Safed, and Dr. Mustafa Yassin, an orthopedist from the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva, worked with the Palestinian medical team at the Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s main medical center, for two-and- a-half intensive days.
“During that period, I examined and treated over 30 children ranging from two months to 14 years of age,” Dr. Kassis told Ynet. “I managed to perform four complicated surgeries, treat congenital anomalies such as a cleft palate, deformities, cuts and burns. The majority of the children were under life threat, some of them having suffered from deformities for a long time.
“Even though Shifa hospital is the largest medical center in Gaza, it is overpopulated and owns very old equipment – making it hard to treat patients in need of emergency care. The harsh reality is that in all of Gaza there is only one plastic surgeon who is supposed to cater to hundreds of cases each month.”
‘Situation today is worse than before’
Dr. Shukri and Dr. Yassin’s aid was initiated by the Physicians for Human Rights organization and Operation Smile, a US organization operating 30 medical centers in 26 locations around the world.
Dr. Kassis performing surgery at Shifa Hospital (Photo: Dr. Salim Haj Yihyeh)
Dr. Kassis coordinates Operation Smile’s activity in Israel and is not a first-timer in this type of humanitarian aid. In 1998, he embarked on a similar mission when landing with a medical crew at the Dahaniya airport in Gaza. “The situation today is worse than it was back then, both in technologically and equipment-wise.”
“I believe medicine is one of the fields that can bring the two sides together,” Dr. Kassis said.
The physicians will continue to work towards their next aid mission, depending on their ability to obtain entry permits and pending security conditions in the Palestinian territories.