An injured Palestinian child receives medical treatment in Rafah

An injured Palestinian child receives medical treatment after being taken to Al-Emirati Hospital following Israeli attacks in Rafah, Gaza on March 02, 2024. It was reported that there were dead and injured people as a result of the attacks carried out by the Israeli army in the city of Rafah.

(Photo by Abed Zagout/Anadolu via Getty Images)

We Risked Our Lives to Treat Patients in Gaza. Now President Biden Must Act to Save Lives

As I think about my colleagues who put their lives at stake to save Palestinians wounded in Gaza, the question I must ask is: when will President Biden force the Israeli government to stop this slaughter?

When your time to die comes, it will come regardless of whether you're in a war zone or your comfort zone.

That's what I told myself and my family when I decided to travel from the safety of our home in Virginia to a besieged hospital in Gaza for a medical relief mission organized by the Palestinian American Medical Association. Because God has power over all things, Muslims believe, we should do what is right even if it's risky and then put our trust in God.

For me, I had no doubt that traveling to Gaza was the right thing to do. As an anesthesiologist who has spent over 45 years serving patients in Virginia and other States, I had a unique skill set that hospitals in Gaza desperately needed: the ability to put patients to sleep before surgery. I learned of a doctor in Gaza who had to amputate his own little daughter’s shredded leg without anesthesia after an Israeli missile destroyed his house and killed other members of his family. I could not imagine a surgeon cutting the leg off of his wide-awake patient, much less his own child. Yet that has been the reality of life in Gaza, where the Israeli government's limits on aid trucks, attacks on hospitals, and killing of medical professionals have forced doctors to operate without basic medical tools that the rest of us take for granted.

Before my journey to Gaza, I gathered with other volunteering doctors in Cairo, where officials from the World Health Organization warned us of the risks to our safety.

"You're going to a war zone. We don't guarantee anything, and anything can happen to you."

Undeterred, we traveled to Gaza in vans. The journey from Cairo to Gaza should have taken less than 6 hours, but it lasted 15 hours because of the constant stops at Egyptian checkpoints.

We saved many of our patients in Gaza and we watched many of them die.

Over the last 15 to 20 miles before entering Rafah, we drove by seemingly thousands of backed-up aid trucks—eighteen-wheeler after eighteen-wheeler on both sides of the highway full of food and other supplies that the Israeli government was barring from entry into Gaza as the population starved.

When we finally reached the European Hospital in Khan Younis, one of the last functioning medical facilities in Gaza, we realized that the hospital was essentially a refugee camp. Patients, their families and refugees packed the halls and stairways, many sleeping on the floors and even in small tents made of plastic sheets and blankets.

We spent our entire days treating a stream of mangled patient after mangled patient, the overwhelming majority of them women and children. Many of them had shrapnel wounds caused by the pellets thrown in every direction by exploding Israeli missiles. Limbs blown off. Blinded eyes. Scarred faces.

We saved many of our patients in Gaza and we watched many of them die. As we fought to heal our patients, we could hear and feel the shuddering impact of bombs exploding in the city around us, sometimes nearby and sometimes far away.

During brief breaks, we slept on side-by-side cots in a cramped room and shared a single bathroom. That was luxury compared to what most Palestinians in Gaza experience. The local doctors and technicians sleep on the floor in the hallways, working around the clock without pay.

By the time my two-week mission in Khan Younis ended, I had seen more horror than I had in forty-five years of my medical practice.

For months, doctors and aid workers have been courageously risking—and sometimes losing—their lives to treat patients in Gaza. It's time for President Biden to show just a small amount of their courage.

Now that horror has spread to Rafah. The Israeli military has entered the city, shutting down aid deliveries, and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee under threat of death. Israeli soldiers even filmed themselves using a tank to bulldoze both the popular "I heart Gaza" sign and the Gaza entry sign where many other visiting doctors, including me, took photographs upon arriving and departing.

The Israeli invasion has also trapped at least twenty foreign doctors, including Americans participating in the same medical mission as me, in Khan Younis, where some are already suffering from dehydration.

As I think about those doctors risking their lives to save patients, the question I must ask is: when will President Biden force the Israeli government to stop this slaughter?

That's what most Americans want him to do. A recent Gallup poll showed that a majority oppose the Israeli government's actions in Gaza, including most Democrats and independents. More Americans also support sending aid to Gaza than those who support sending more military aid to the Israeli government, according to Pew Research Center. President Biden's decision to delay one shipment of weapons hasn't stopped Benjamin Netanyahu from attacking Rafah. As a medical professional who saw the impact of Israeli attacks on another city firsthand, I hope President Biden will admit that Netanyahu has crossed all of his red lines, freeze the flow of weapons, demand full humanitarian access, and secure a permanent ceasefire deal.

Otherwise, I expect more injured patients will stream into ever-more cramped hospitals with fewer supplies and fewer surviving doctors in Khan Younis, Rafah and elsewhere. For months, doctors and aid workers have been courageously risking—and sometimes losing—their lives to treat patients in Gaza. It's time for President Biden to show just a small amount of their courage. People like me can only treat the victims of violence. President Biden is the one who must stop the violence.

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