Sunday, December 28, 2008

Egypt ambulances waiting empty on Gaza border

Source: Agence France-Presse (AFP)

RAFAH, Egypt, Dec 28, 2008 (AFP) - Dozens of empty ambulances waited on the Egyptian border with Gaza on Sunday to evacuate those wounded by Israeli air strikes, but found no one to take for treatment despite a deal with Hamas.

More than 270 Palestinians have been killed and 600 wounded since Israel began hammering the Gaza Strip with air strikes on Saturday, but no wounded have yet left via Rafah, the Hamas-ruled territory's only Arab border crossing.

"No one has come in, we don't know why they're closed on the other side," a senior border security official told AFP. Several plane and truck loads of aid are also waiting to be allowed into the Gaza Strip, a security official said.

The road leading to the border crossing in the divided town of Rafah was lined with 20 vans of riot police, an AFP correspondent reported, with 40 ambulances and several pick-ups full of medicine waiting to cross into Gaza.

Egyptian state media reported on Saturday that several dozen wounded had crossed into Egypt for treatment.

But state news agency MENA later reported that despite an agreement with Hamas for 70 critical cases to come to Egypt for treatment, no one has crossed "just yet."

"We're still waiting," a medic told AFP on Sunday morning.

"Sometimes they (Hamas) say they're going to bring people, sometimes they say they're not going to bring people," said another medic, requesting anonymity. "Now they say they want medical supplies for the wounded."

Gaza has been crippled by an Israeli blockade of all but the most essential supplies, with even basic medicines lacking in the impoverished territory. But no emergency medical aid entered on Sunday.

A security official said that an Egyptian plane with 50 doctors on board as well as medical supplies had arrived in nearby El-Arish. Two Qatari planes carrying 50 tonnes of medical supplies were waiting at the same airport.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has also ordered three planes of medical aid to the Gaza Strip via Egypt, MENA said, and offered to air lift the wounded.

"The Rafah border crossing was opened by the Egyptians yesterday, but no Hamas people showed up" on the other side, an Israeli military spokesman said. Source


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