Scores of Palestinians like Alaa have been brought to Egypt via the Rafah crossing since it was opened on Monday.
Egypt throws injured a lifeline
Loyalties harden Patients from police to children treated after border opened CAIRO // As Alaa Moustafa Saad, 13, went to buy bread for his family on Sunday morning, a bomb struck a police station he was passing by in Al Shojaaiya in Gaza. "All those around me died," said Alaa from his bed at the Nasser Institute hospital in Shobra, Cairo. "I bled a lot, my two legs were injured with shrapnel, the nerve was cut in my left leg. I don't know if I'll be able to walk again," he said, lifting the blanket to show his injuries.
Alaa's father, sitting at his bedside, said his son is scheduled to be operated on today. "I wish he will be able to walk again and play football like all the boys his age," he said. Scores of Palestinians like Alaa have been brought to Egypt via the Rafah crossing since it was opened on Monday, two days after Israel began its Gaza offensive, which has left about 390 dead and more than 1,600 injured.
Some of the wounded are being treated at a military hospital in Al Arish, which is close to the border with Gaza, while others have been brought to Cairo. The Nasser Institute hospital in Cairo has treated Palestinian casualties before and began preparations on Saturday to treat those wounded in the latest violence, evacuating the fourth floor to accommodate them. Most of the Palestinians arriving in Cairo are not in critical condition - they would not have been able to withstand the long journey from Rafah and the hours of waiting at checkpoints en route - but most need operations.
Not far from Alaa's room, Emad Abdel Aziz Mosleh, 32, lies on a small bed with a bandage around his right arm and a red-chequered kaffiyeh around his neck. "I was passing a police station in Gaza around 10.30pm Saturday, when several bombs struck it," said Mr Mosleh, struggling to speak through the pain. "There were several explosions, then there was thick black smoke, many people died and were wounded."
Mr Mosleh incurred multiple fractures in his right arm and a shrapnel wound to his leg. He denied that Hamas had prevented the wounded from leaving Gaza to receive treatment in Egypt as Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, alleged on Sunday. "As soon as Egypt opened the Rafah crossing, the wounded started to leave," said Mr Mosleh, who arrived on Tuesday, after first being taken to Al Shohadaa hospital in Gaza, which was short of supplies.
He said Israel's bombardment of Gaza would never weaken his support for Hamas. "They came via the ballot box, so they shouldn't leave by Israeli weapons and bombardments," he said. Mr Mosleh's brother, Maher, a Gaza policeman, agreed. "Even if Gaza will be subject to mass killings, we swear that Mahmoud Abbas [the Palestinian president] will not come back to Gaza even on a tank," he said. "I elected Hamas last time and will elect it again. I want my leader to have a copy of the Quran in his hand, not a glass of whisky, if you know what I mean."
Mr Mosleh nodded in agreement. "Israel doesn't want Hamas, which is more reason why we want it. We had enough of Fatah's moral and financial corruption. All Gaza is Hamas." Next to his bed lay Eyad Jabr al Hourani, 32, also a policeman, who had just arrived at the hospital. On Saturday, Mr al Hourani said, minutes after he had got to his desk at Al Abbas police station in the Al Rimal area at about 11.30am, he heard Israeli planes flying overhead.
"There were calls over the radio in the police station to evacuate immediately, which I did," Mr al Hourani said. "Then I remembered there were five people still detained inside, so I went back to evacuate them. As we were leaving the police station [the second time] I was hit by a huge explosion - two policemen who were with me died instantly, I was thrown to a supermarket across the street." Mr al Hourani was hit by shrapnel in his head, right arm and left leg. He was initially taken to Al Shifaa hospital in Gaza.
"I found myself among many corpses and people with amputated arms and legs. There were horrible scenes. Then I lost consciousness. The Palestinian people are again being killed in cold blood by the Israelis for no reason," he said, as a nurse drew a blood sample from his left arm. "Our only crime is that we are Palestinians." Mr al Hourani said Israel's attacks strengthened his support for Hamas and said he was even willing to sacrifice his children for the Palestinian cause.
"We are ready to sacrifice till the last Palestinian child," he said. "I have Amjad, eight, and Lisan, two - as much as I love them, I'm ready to sacrifice them for Palestine. "I hope I won't be accused of being a terrorist for saying so, but that's what I believe in." firstname.lastname@example.org