French warship treats around 1,000 injured Gazans off Egyptian shore

AL-ARISH, Egypt (Reuters) – About 1,000 people from Gaza have been treated in a French field hospital aboard a ship off the coast of Egypt, its captain said, providing care for some as health infrastructure in the war-devastated enclave collapses.

The Dixmude, a French helicopter carrier, has been docked in the Egyptian port of al-Arish, 50 km (30 miles) west of the Gaza Strip, since November. The vessel is equipped with wards, operating theatres and 70 medical staff.

Nearly 120 injured people have been hospitalised on board, while hundreds more have been seen for outpatient consultations, including follow-ups on injuries and psychiatric issues, said Captain Alexandre Blonce, calling it an “unprecedented mission”.

Israeli forces launched all-out war to eliminate Gaza’s ruling Palestinian Islamist group Hamas after its militants burst across the border into southern Israeli towns and bases on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages back to the enclave. Over 25,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war.

Gazans have struggled to get medical care at home as tens of thousands have been wounded, with most of Gaza’s 36 hospitals no longer functioning, and those remaining operating at far over capacity, the World Health Organization says.

Israel has targeted the largest remaining hospitals, saying Hamas fighters are operating there, something Hamas denies.

Those lucky enough to cross into Egypt, like 16-year-old Ahmed Abu Daqqa, who was injured on Nov. 1, faced long waits for medical care.

Doctors in Gaza “took out the shrapnel and put in two rods, but a month later they discovered more shrapnel in my knee. They told me they’ll handle it later because there were too many surgeries,” he said on board the Dixmude.

“I tried many times to get a transfer” before finally crossing into Egypt, he said.

He was then able to undergo further surgery where the rods and shrapnel were removed and a resulting infection dealt with, as well as receiving physical therapy.

He and others on board the French ship were awaiting further transfers to hospitals in Egypt or abroad.

Italy sent a similar floating hospital to the Egyptian coast in December.

(Reporting by Ahmed Fahmy and Mohamed Abdelghany, writing by Nafisa Eltahir; editing by Mark Heinrich)