Doctors Struggle To Get Into Gaza Relief supplies are stacking up on Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip. But only a trickle of humanitarian and medical aid is getting through. Meanwhile, Palestinians eager to return home despite the carnage, have found themselves stranded.
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Doctors Struggle To Get Into Gaza

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Doctors Struggle To Get Into Gaza

Doctors Struggle To Get Into Gaza

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This is Day to Day. I'm Noah Adams.


And I'm Alex Cohen. In a few minutes, do animals have the same kind of emotions humans do? Writer Temple Grandin weighs in.

ADAMS: But first, the violence continues in the Gaza Strip. Earlier today, Israeli tank shells killed more than 34 Palestinians who sought refuge at a United Nations school in northern Gaza. Health officials say at least 58 Palestinians were killed in fighting today, just two of them confirmed as militants. And one of the two dozen rockets fired from Gaza wounded an Israeli infant.

COHEN: According to the latest U.N. numbers, nearly 600 Palestinians have been killed. Ten Israelis have died since the operation began on December 27th, including a soldier who was shot today. As the civilian death toll rises, the international community's calls for a cease-fire are increasing too. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack says the U.S. supports that idea.

Mr. SEAN MCCORMACK (Spokesman, State Department): We would like an immediate cease-fire, absolutely - an immediate cease-fire that is durable, sustainable and not time-limited.

ADAMS: Many of the 1.5 million people in the Gaza Strip lack food, water, or power. The International Red Cross is calling the situation a full-blown humanitarian crisis, and Israel still isn't allowing foreign journalists into Gaza to report directly on the situation. NPR's Peter Kenyon spoke with a few of the people waiting on the Egyptian side of the border and sent us this report.

PETER KENYON: The border area is full of surprises, even moments of comedy. In the rush to transfer medical supplies from an Egyptian 18-wheeler to a Palestinian truck before the border closes again, accidents can happen.

(Soundbite of people shouting)

KENYON: Volunteers scramble for cover as a tall stack of boxes tips, teeters, and then crashes to the pavement. There are some worried looks, but according to the labels, the cases are filled with bandages from Germany. No harm done. Immediately, several people begin giving very loud and contradictory instructions to the truck drivers - Come on. Pull up closer. No, stop - lending a Keystone Cops flavor to the scene, until you remember why they're here.

(Soundbite of explosion)

KENYON: People who have been here for several days say these explosions are closer and louder than any they've heard so far. With the Israeli army moving into parts of the southern Gaza Strip, it's hard to see how these several tons of medical supplies will get all the way to the main Shifa Hospital in the northern part of the Strip because the main roads inside Gaza have been cut. Still, a few ambulances are getting out.

At the count of one, two, three, medical crews lift a wounded Palestinian man from one stretcher to another and shift him into an Egyptian ambulance for transport to a nearby hospital. Standing perhaps a hundred yards away is Mohammed Huwaldi(ph), a Jordanian neurosurgeon, in a rumpled brown suit. He's one of a number of doctors who are camping out at the border crossing, waiting for permission to enter Gaza and work alongside their exhausted Palestinian colleagues.

Dr. MOHAMMED HUWALDI: (Through Translator) I'm here to help the people of Gaza, and we're not here to take up arms. We're here to heal and help the wounded. Especially as a neurosurgeon, there are a lot of cases that have to be treated immediately.

KENYON: Dr. Huwaldi says while he waits for permission to enter, he's offering to ride along in an ambulance if there's a head or spinal cord injury to provide whatever care he can.

Dr. HUWALDI: (Through Translator) I'm here until the war stops or until we get in. But as long as there are injuries coming out, I'm not leaving.

KENYON: In another corner of the crossing area, a perfectly normal sight that now seems anything but normal. A Palestinian woman is waiting in front of a bus to go back into southern Gaza. Her name is Ragda Souha(ph), and she spent the last two months in Egypt getting medical treatment. She seems nervous, but she says she has no hesitation about going back now.

Ms. RAGDA SOUHA: (Through Translator) I have a daughter. She's 12. She's OK, but of course, she's scared because she's a child. There were attacks at her school. She has friends who have been killed. So it's natural she's scared when something like this happens. I'm scared for her, of course. God only knows what the situation is like in Gaza now. Where is all this going?

KENYON: Ragda's home is in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, where some of the latest reports of heavy fighting are coming from. But her fear for her family outweighs her fear of the coming journey. Not far away, an Egyptian pharmacist smiles wearily and rubs his eyes. He's just brought an aid convoy on a 12-hour checkpoint filled journey from Alexandria. Yes, he agrees, it shouldn't be this hard to help people. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, at the Egypt-Gaza border.

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