(ZENIT News / Roma, 01.02.2024).- The Vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land of the Franciscan Friars Minor, Father Ibrahim Faltas, has promoted among Italian, Palestinian, Israeli and Egyptian Authorities the care of children wounded in the Gaza Strip. The first four arrived on January 29 in the afternoon, at the military airport of Ciampino, and were then taken to the Bambino Gesu Vatican Paediatric Hospital.
Seven other children arrived at other hospitals. “Finally we have seen a smile in these children’s eyes. They are happy because they have come out of hell, they said to us. For them, to come to Italy was a dream, now they have realized it,” commented emotionally the Vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land to journalists. The Friar was accompanied by Tiziano Onesti, President of the Bambino Gesu Paediatric Hospital, and the Ambassador of Palestine to the Holy See, Issa J. Kassissieh.
This humanitarian project in favour of the children of Gaza was an initiative of the Vicariate of the Custody of the Holy Land and the Governments of Italy and Egypt, in agreement with the Israeli Authorities. The intention is to take immediately some one hundred seriously wounded children to Italy and the Vatican to palliate the harm they have suffered from the bombings and battles in Gaza, medical care that is practically impossible in the Palestinian Strip.
The Israeli Army is attacking the main hospitals of Khan Yunis, region in the south of the Strip, as EFE reported. The Israeli military are engaged in operations in health centers where they assert Hamas terrorists are hiding, regardless of the hospitalized patients.
After crossing the border with Egypt, the children were taken by plane to the Ciampino Airport in Rome and, from there, to several paediatric hospitals, the Vatican’s being one of them. The first distribution was coordinated by the Bambino Gesu Paediatric Hospital, with the centers of Gaslini in Genoa, Meyer in Florence and Rizzoli in Bologna. The logistical deployment was prepared discreetly over the last two weeks.
Father Ibrahim Faltas said to L’Osservatore Romano that he has “always followed and assisted families in Gaza, who know my close relationship with Italy. They asked me: “Can you do something to take some sick or seriously wounded children out of here?” I got to work right away with institutions of the Italian Government and I received a swift and enthusiastic consent. From there, an intense activity of mediation began, which has involved Israelis, Palestinians and Egyptians. Some will go to the Vulcan hospital ship, which is ending its mission in Al Arish, (Egypt). We are working to find other hospital infrastructures, which can be used.” Hospitals of Puglia, San Marino and the University of Perugia have offered themselves.
“The effort of Italy’s Defense and Health institutions has been truly praiseworthy. I have simply made available to them the dense network of relations I have built on the ground in Gaza, in Palestine and in Israel over the years,” said the Franciscan priest.
Tiziano Onesti, President of the Bambino Gesu, explained that, on learning of the proposal, they said yes without giving it a second thought. “It’s the nature of our mission as paediatric hospital that, in its concrete action, represents a tangible sign of the Church’s charity and mercy, as Pope Francis reminded us recently.” And he added: “In such a tragic international context, it’s essential to be able to offer a response of care and reception” to “address situations of great suffering that involve children, especially if they are wounded or suffer serious illnesses.”
“The reception they have received here is beautiful,” explained Father Faltas, “and it’s a sign that the Bambino Gesu welcomes all, without distinctions. They are all Muslims, they come from the Strip and each one has behind him a particular story.” A little one arrived with an orthopaedic problem, whose father, journalist Mohammed Al Ashqar, saw 26 members of his family die in the bombardments: his wife fled to the Arab Emirates, with two other daughters who are also sick.
Father Faltas said: “It wasn’t easy to take them out: we talked with the Palestinian and Egyptian Authorities and with Israel. We had 100 on the list, but up to now we have only been able to bring 11 with 13 accompaniers.” And he asks the International Community to act, because there are more than 26,000 people who have lost their lives, and 65,000 wounded without the possibility of being cared for because the hospitals are destroyed.
Kassissieh, the Ambassador of Palestine to the Holy See, said that “in the name of the Palestinian leaders and the Palestinian people (I thank) all those that have made this gesture in the name of our children, who are now out of the tunnel. It’s heart-breaking to listen to their stories and those of their families.” He also stressed Pope Francis’ prayers, who “prays for us, for the Holy Land, for peace.”