Russia claims new advances in east as Kyiv awaits Western support

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - JAKARTA: An Indonesian medical team has entered Gaza as part of an emergency deployment led by the World Health Organization.

The Indonesian NGO organizing the volunteers said on Tuesday that the team of 11 doctors and nurses is now in Rafah and will work at a hospital in the city for at least two weeks.

They will join two other volunteers from the Indonesian NGO Medical Emergency Rescue Committee who have stayed in the besieged enclave since the Israeli campaign began in October.

“There are 11 MER-C volunteers who have entered the Gaza strip, comprising doctors and also surgical nurses … (they) are now in Rafah, southern Gaza, because it is safer in the south,” Sarbini Abdul Murad, chairman of MER-C’s executive committee, said during a press conference in Jakarta.

“From the beginning we wanted to help and to bring volunteers to help the people of Gaza, who today are in need of medical workers … so, in this case, MER-C went to Gaza with an international organization, which is the WHO.”

MER-C volunteers used to be stationed at the Indonesia Hospital in north Gaza, which the organization had built using funds partly donated by the Indonesian people. The facility, which was also designed and constructed with the help of Indonesian engineers and builders, opened in 2015.

But after the hospital — like many other public facilities in Gaza — was destroyed by the Israeli military, Indonesian volunteers were forced to seek safety in the southern part of the enclave.

A team of volunteer Indonesian doctors and nurses organized by Indonesian NGO MER-C poses for a photo in this photo shared on March 19, 2024. (MER-C) 

For months, the NGO had unsuccessfully attempted to send a medical team to Gaza, with continued Israeli violence complicating entry to the besieged territory.

“This long journey has not been tiring for us, as it is a big responsibility to help our brothers in Gaza. Even with the present dynamic situation and condition, we will never forget the struggle, the suffering that our fellow brothers in Gaza have gone through,” Murad said.

Almost 32,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel’s air and ground campaign across Gaza, where the humanitarian situation has deteriorated to an imminent famine. Half of the enclave’s 2.4 million people are experiencing “catastrophic hunger and starvation,” the UN said on Monday.

The team of Indonesian medics is part of a larger emergency medical deployment led by the WHO and composed of members from different countries. It includes orthopedic physicians and surgical nurses to help victims of Israeli attacks who suffer injuries from bombings, missile attacks and gunshots.

“We also know that many doctors, especially in orthopedics, are exhausted and some of them have died — so this is a small part where we can help them,” Murad added.

MER-C is also calling on all Indonesian medics to form a medical coalition to continue sending doctors and nurses to Gaza on a rolling basis.

“We must all contribute, to band together so that, at least on the issue of healthcare, we can handle it together,” Murad said.

“We want to emphasize once again that the problem in Gaza is a world problem; a problem for all of us, and it’s not enough to have just one group helping the people of Gaza.” 

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