UAE field hospital in Gaza provides medical aid to patients

Israel maintains a dark desert hospital for Gaza detainees. Critics denounce mistreatment

JERUSALEM: Patients lie chained and blindfolded on more than a dozen beds inside a white desert tent. Operations performed without adequate painkillers. Doctors who remain anonymous.
These are some of the conditions at Israel’s only hospital dedicated to caring for Palestinians detained by the military in the Gaza Strip, three people who worked there told the Associated Press, confirming similar reports from human rights groups.
While Israel says it only holds suspected militants, many patients turned out to be noncombatants taken in raids, held without trial and eventually returned to war-torn Gaza.
Eight months into the war between Israel and Hamas, allegations of inhumane treatment at the Sde Teiman military field hospital are growing, and the Israeli government is under growing pressure to close it. Human rights groups and other critics say what started as a temporary place to hold and treat militants after October 7 has turned into a harsh detention center with too little accountability.
The army denies allegations of inhuman treatment and says all detainees who need medical care receive it.
The hospital is located near the city of Beersheba in southern Israel. Of three workers interviewed by the AP, two spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared government retaliation and public rebuke.
“We are condemned by the left because we do not respect ethical issues,” said Dr. Yoel Donchin, an anesthetist who has worked at Sde Teiman Hospital since its early days and still works there. “We are condemned by the right because they think we are criminals because we cure terrorists.”
The army this week said it had formed a committee to investigate conditions at the detention center, but it was unclear whether that included the hospital. Israel’s highest court is set to hear arguments from human rights groups seeking to shut it down next week.
Israel did not grant journalists or the International Committee of the Red Cross access to the Sde Teiman facilities.
According to official figures, Israel has arrested around 4,000 Palestinians since October 7, although around 1,500 were released after the military determined they were not affiliated with Hamas. Israeli human rights groups say most detainees at some point have passed through Sde Teiman, the country’s largest detention center.
Doctors say they treated many who appeared to be non-combatants.
“Now we have patients who are no longer so young, patients with diabetes and hypertension,” said Donchin, the anesthesiologist.
A soldier working at the hospital told of an elderly man who underwent surgery on his leg without pain medication. “He was screaming and shaking,” the soldier said.
Between medical treatments, the soldier said patients were housed in the detention center, where they were exposed to squalid conditions and their wounds often developed infections. There was a separate area where elderly people slept on thin mattresses under spotlights and a putrid smell hung in the air, he said.
The military said in a statement that all detainees are “reasonably suspected of being involved in terrorist activities.” They said they receive checks on arrival and are transferred to hospital when they require more serious treatment.
A health worker who visited patients at the facility in the winter said he taught hospital workers how to wash wounds.
Donchin, who has largely defended the facility against allegations of mistreatment but has been critical of some of its practices, said most patients are in diapers and not allowed to use the bathroom, shackled at the arms and legs and blindfolded.
“Their eyes are always covered. I don’t know what the safety reason is,” she said.
The military disputed accounts provided to the AP, saying patients were handcuffed “in cases where the security risk required it” and removed when they caused injury. Patients rarely wear diapers, she said.
Dr. Michael Barilan, a professor at Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Medicine, who said he spoke to more than 15 hospital staff, disputed reports of medical negligence. He said doctors were doing their best in difficult circumstances and that the bandages were born out of “(patients’) fear of retaliating against those who care for them.”
Days after October 7, around 100 Israelis clashed with police outside one of the country’s main hospitals in response to false rumors that it was treating a militant.
Some hospitals later refused to treat detainees, fearing it would endanger staff and disrupt operations.
As Israel transported dozens of wounded Palestinians to Sde Teiman, it became clear that the facility’s infirmary was not large enough, according to Barilan. An adjacent field hospital was built from scratch.
Israel’s Health Ministry laid out plans for the hospital in a December memo obtained by the AP.
Patients would be treated while handcuffed and blindfolded. The doctors, drafted into service by the military, would be kept anonymous to protect their “safety, life and well-being”. The ministry deferred all questions to the military when reached for comment.
However, an April report by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, based on interviews with hospital workers, said doctors at the facility faced “ethical, professional and even emotional difficulties.” Barilan said turnover was high.
Patients with more complicated injuries were transferred from the field hospital to civilian hospitals, but this was done covertly to avoid attracting public attention, Barilan said. And the process is complicated: The health worker who spoke to the AP said a detainee with a gunshot wound was discharged prematurely from a civilian hospital in Sde Teiman hours after being treated, putting his life in danger. of him.
The field hospital is overseen by military and medical officials, but Donchin said part of its operations are run by KLP, a private logistics and security company whose website says it specializes in “high-risk environments.” The company did not respond to a request for comment.
Because it is not under the same command as the military medical corps, the field hospital is not subject to Israel’s Patients Rights Act, according to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel.
A team from the Israeli Medical Association visited the hospital earlier this year but kept its findings confidential. The association did not respond to requests for comment.
The army told the AP that 36 people from Gaza have died in Israeli detention centers since October 7, some of them from illnesses or wounds sustained during the war. Doctors for Human Rights-Israel said some died due to medical negligence.
Khaled Hammouda, a surgeon from Gaza, spent 22 days in one of Israel’s detention centers. He doesn’t know where he was taken because he was blindfolded during transportation. But he said he recognized a photo of Sde Teiman and saw at least one detainee, a prominent Gaza doctor believed to be there.
Hammouda recalled asking a soldier if a pale 18-year-old who appeared to be suffering from internal bleeding could be taken to a doctor. The soldier took the teenager away, gave him intravenous fluids for a few hours and then returned him.
“I told them, ‘He could die,’” Hammouda said. “’They told me this is the limit.’”

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