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Middle East - interview

Missiles and air raids hinder treatment, says Israeli doctor

Article published on the 2008-12-29 Latest update 2008-12-29 15:24 TU

Israeli onlookers stand at the scene of a rocket attack in Ashkelon(Credit: Reuters)

Israeli onlookers stand at the scene of a rocket attack in Ashkelon
(Credit: Reuters)

Medical care has been affected on both sides of the Gaza-Israeli border on Monday as the Israeli Defence Force conduct air raids on Gaza, and Palestinian fighters shoot rockets into Israeli territory. The southern Israeli town of Ashkelon is in the direct line of fire of the home-made rockets and is the site of Barzilai Medical Center.

On Monday morning Ashkelon was hit by nine rockets. Thirty-two people were wounded and one died, according to Dr Ron Lobel, deputy Director-General of Barzilai.

"The problem for us is that the entire hospital is within the range of the rockets and we might be hit within," Lobel told RFI, adding that the hospital, the only one of its kind serving 500,000 people in the area, does not have fortified walls.

Eyewitness: Dr Ron Lobel, deputy Director-General, Barzilai Medical Center, Ashkelon, Israel

29/12/2008 by Rosslyn Hyams

Lobel says that the emergency unit had been moved underground for better protection.

"It's less comfortable to treat patients there, but it's a little bit more safe," he says. "In this state of alarm we have moved our pediatric department to an underground facility."

Lobel adds that some patients are from Gaza.

"There are still 12 children hospitalised there, and three of them are Palestinians." 

Palestinians regularly come through the checkpoints to be treated by doctors in Israel.

"They are just sick people who come who cannot be treated in the Gaza hospital ... this is a relationship we have had for many years," he says.

But working so close to the border is dangerous for the staff as well. In February a rocket fell on the helipad, 800 metres from the emergency room. Another fell and exploded today only 700 metres from the hospital.

With the current siege, Gazan patients are blocked from entering the area.

"I believe within a few days things will calm down and they will start to transfer patients to our hospital," Lobel says.