As the fourth day of the conflict in Gaza continues, Israel’s Ashkelon hospital moves its essential departments underground. (I remember seeing the Haifa hospital’s underground facility, created before the Lebanon II War, which saved so many lives during that conflict.)
Fearing missile strikes from the Gaza Strip, Ashkelon’s Barzilai Hospital on Saturday moved its most essential departments into an underground bomb shelter. The hospital in this city of 120,000 people about 17 kilometers (11 miles) north of the Gaza border has sent half its patients home to get them out of harm’s way….
In Barzilai’s underground children’s ward, sick Gazans lay alongside sick Israelis as a clown hopped around trying to coax smiles from them all. Lobel said that his facility had close ties with Gaza’s Shifa hospital, and accepted many of its patients who need treatment the Gazan hospital cannot provide. He said it wasn’t uncommon to have a colleague in Gaza call him for assistance even as rockets rained down on Ashkelon.
“It might seem completely absurd,” Lobel said. “But we have the privilege to be doctors. Our medical ethics do not distinguish between patients. We treat whoever needs to be treated.”
A Gaza woman, whose two-month-old granddaughter was being treated for an unidentified ailment, wept when asked how she was coping. She said she was fortunate her granddaughter was getting the best medical treatment but was worried about her daughter and other grandchildren in Gaza City. She said some of their next-door neighbors had been killed by the Israeli airstrikes that have killed more than 280 people. “I am very sad and hurt,” she said, in Arabic. “We want peace, not war.” She refused to identify herself or have her picture taken, for fear of retribution if her presence in Israel was discovered in Gaza.
A few doors down in the maternity ward, 23-year-old Israeli Keren Shaltiel was resting after giving birth to her second child. She said hearing sirens and exploding rockets outside while in labor was bizarre. A resident of the frequently-hit nearby town of Sderot, she said she was used to such sounds but didn’t expect them to accompany her delivery. “Today is a very happy day for me personally,” she said from her underground hospital room. “But today I am also very worried about my town and my country.”