The Israeli emergency clinic at the Erez crossing, which opened on the day Israel declared a ceasefire in Gaza (18 January), has closed after treating only five wounded Palestinians.
The original purpose of the clinic, according to press releases, was to provide emergency care and evacuate those needing further care to hospitals in Israel.
Gynaecologists, paediatricians, general practitioners and trauma specialists were available at the clinic, which was operated by the Health Ministry and Mada (Israel’s national emergency, disaster, ambulance and blood bank service).
Foreign press and aid workers said the clinic was merely a publicity stunt. Scores of journalists were invited to its opening day.
A volunteer nurse at the clinic, who preferred anonymity, said: ”It is an extremely well-equipped clinic. We are able to treat a wide selection of medical conditions; it is a pity that only five patients benefited from our services.”
An Israeli medical source told IRIN: “We assume it [the clinic’s closure] was a result of a combination of things: Hamas disapproval of what they consider to be propaganda, the fear of Palestinians, and the distance they need to travel to the crossing.”
Mada spokesperson Yerukham Mendola told IRIN: “It was not our decision to open or to close the clinic. The orders came from the office of Isaac Herzog, the social affairs minister.”
Herzog was appointed two weeks ago by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to coordinate humanitarian aid to Gaza.
A spokesperson for the Israeli NGO Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) told IRIN: “This clinic should have been opened on the first day and not after 22 days [the duration of the Israeli offensive]. Our assessment team in Gaza has concluded that an emergency clinic is not enough, and the medical needs of Gaza’s wounded are much more complicated and cannot be treated in an emergency clinic.”