February 15, 2014

Israelis Saving Syrian Lives

                                              Israeli Field Hospital, Golan Heights  (Reuters )

Syria’s civil war has claimed the lives of around 130,000 people; it’s estimated that about one and a half million people have been displaced.  For the many needing medical attention, the best care comes from an “unlikely source”: Israel.  

The two countries have no diplomatic relations and Israel is considered an “enemy” by the Syrian government.  Meanwhile, Israel has set up three field hospitals in the Golan Heights and has been treating Syrians -- fighters as well as civilians -- in Israeli hospitals.  Upon returning to Syria, the patients could be harassed or killed as “collaborators with Israel,” so care is taken to keep their identity completely secret.

For Israeli medical staff, national or political identity is irrelevant. “We treat who ever comes in the door,” says the clinical director of Israel’s Western Galilee Medical Center, Masad Barhoum. Most of the patients are very badly hurt and receive “lifesaving medical treatment” in Israel.

Since Israel has kept their whole program of assistance as quiet as possible it’s not entirely easy to find out details, how many people have been treated, how many are fighters and how many civilians, and so on. It was only a month ago that any cameras were allowed into a field hospital and then only with the patients’ faces fully obscured so that they could not be identified.  

One of the most informative articles I’ve read, itself comes from an unlikely source, the United Arab Emirates' National Post. Neither the UAE or Syria allow Israelis into their countries. Yet, real life (and death) seem to intrude on these fixed positions. The National article begins:

When a rebel was shot and severely wounded during a new offensive on Syria’s southern front, his colleagues knew the only hope of saving his life was to get him to Israel. (continue here)