Children from Gaza needing medical treatment arrive in Rome

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Gaza Children
A Palestinian girl wounded in Israeli strikes waits at Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City. (OSV News photo/Doaa Rouqa, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Ten children from Gaza in need of medical attention arrived in Rome on a military plane late Jan. 29, the first group of young patients who will receive treatment in Italy thanks to the lobbying of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land and negotiations involving the governments of Italy, Israel, Palestine and Egypt.

The 10 children and a young man, described as being just over 18 years old, were taken from Rome’s Ciampino military airport to the Vatican-run Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital for an initial assessment, Vatican News reported.

The patients include children seriously injured in the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas as well as chronically ill children who can no longer receive the necessary treatment in Gaza because of the war.

Four of the patients will stay at Bambino Gesù while the young man will be treated at St. Camillus Hospital in Rome and the other children will be cared for at hospitals in Genoa, Bologna and Florence.

Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land coordinates airlift

The flight was met at Ciampino airport by Father Ibrahim Faltas, vicar of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, along with Italy’s foreign minister and the army general who coordinated the airlift.

Awaiting the arrival of the plane, Vatican News said, “Father Faltas did not hold back his emotion at what he described to the Vatican Media as ‘a first sign of peace. Peace that needs listening and humility.'”

Gen. Francesco Figliuolo, head of the interforce coordinating team, told reporters at the airport that the Italian government and armed forces studied the possibility of setting up a field hospital in Gaza, but the security situation made that impossible.

The first group of patients, and the parents or guardians accompanying them, crossed from Gaza into Egypt at the Rafah crossing and were taken to a hospital in Cairo in preparation for the flight.

Initial plans are for 100 Palestinian children, who are in dire need of medical care that cannot be provided in Gaza, to be brought to Italy. The Italian military hospital ship, Vulcano, currently docked in Egypt was to set sail Jan. 31 with another 50 to 60 children and their guardians. Another airlift is expected in February.

Cindy Wooden

Cindy Wooden is a journalist with Catholic News Service.