Palestinian children walk in the rubble of a house in Rafah, Gaza 

By Roberto Cetera

Jan 26 2024

A humanitarian effort coordinated by the Vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land will bring over 100 injured Palestinian children from Gaza to Italy for medical treatment.

In the coming hours, a major humanitarian project for the children of Gaza will begin, promoted by the Italian government in collaboration with the Egyptian authorities and agreement with Israeli authorities.

The project involves transferring about a hundred children severely injured during the massive bombings and fighting in Gaza to several Italian hospitals, since their treatment would be difficult, if not impossible, in Gaza.

The children will cross the border with Egypt, and from there they will be flown to Rome’s Ciampino airport. From here, they will be admitted to various Italian pediatric hospitals.

The project was prepared in the last two weeks with much discretion, overcoming many difficulties. So much so that, as this article is published, it is not yet known when the first plane will be able to leave for Italy.

Since its inception, the project was followed by the Vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land, Father Ibrahim Faltas, who facilitated the wide range of relationships acquired over decades of charitable pastoral activity.

Father Faltas, speaking to L’Osservatore Romano, said: “I have always followed and assisted families in Gaza, and they know of my intense relations with Italy. So they asked me, ‘Can you do something to get some injured or seriously ill children out?’ I immediately got to work with the Italian government institutions, receiving immediate enthusiastic consent. From there, an intense mediation activity began that involved Israelis, Palestinians, and Egyptians.”

Initially, continued Fr Faltas, “there was talk of two groups of 50 children each; then it was decided for three groups of 40, so in total 120 children. Some of them will come aboard the hospital ship ‘Vulcano’, which is concluding its mission in Al-Arish. The date of the first departure is still not decided, because it is necessary to first find an agreement on the number of companions who will travel with the children. In the meantime, we are working to find other hospital facilities that can be used, including the hospitals of Puglia and San Marino, as well as the University of Perugia, which have offered their availability. I must say that the effort shown by the Italian defense and health institutions has been truly commendable. For my part, I have simply made available the dense network of relationships that I have built in the territory, in Gaza, in Palestine, and in Israel, over many years.”

The first reception and distribution to the medical facilities will be handled by the Bambino Gesù Hospital. Other hospitals involved are Gaslini in Genoa, Meyer in Florence, and Rizzoli in Bologna.

The president of Bambino Gesù, Tiziano Onesti, said: “In such a dramatic international context, facing situations of great suffering involving children, especially if injured or suffering from serious diseases, it is essential to be able to offer a response of care and welcome, not only concretely for these children and their families but also as a sign of peace and hope. Taking care of children means taking care of the future. It means witnessing that a future is possible. Therefore, when the institutions asked us to welcome some Palestinian children with complex pathologies, we immediately said yes. We do it every day with our international missions, and with patients coming from all over the world, we could not fail to do so in a situation like this. It is the nature of our mission as a pediatric hospital that, in its concrete action, represents, as Pope Francis recently reminded us, a tangible sign of the charity and mercy of the Church.” – Vatican News