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Harper refuses to help Palestinian children, says it’s safer for them to stay in Gaza

Pernille Ironside, the head of the UNICEF office in Gaza, says that the Israeli assault on Gaza has killed 408 children and wounded another 2,502 children. She notes that about 373,000 children have had traumatic experiences and need psychosocial support.

University of Toronto professor Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, who lost three daughters in an Israeli tank attack in 2009, recently proposed in a Toronto Star op-ed, “There are many severely wounded children in Gaza and the hospitals and health-care personnel there are woefully ill-equipped to treat them all. I would like to see our world-class Toronto hospitals offer to take in 100 of the most seriously wounded.”

The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, Kingston General Hospital and Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto all agreed to receive the children.

The Ontario provincial government agreed to this too.

As did the federal Liberals, NDP and Greens.

But the Harper government has rejected the idea.

Adam Hodge, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, says, “Those who want their support to have the greatest impact must recognize the importance of ensuring innocent victims receive the medical support they need close to their families and loved ones, and that includes avoiding the medical risks and dangers of being transported overseas.”

In other words, the Harper government says that it’s safer for children to remain in Gaza.

But even by late July, the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reported that six of Gaza’s 13 hospitals had been severely damaged. The Al Wafa Hospital was bombed and completely destroyed on July 17 and Israeli tanks shelled the al-Aqsa Hospital on July 21.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz adds, “A delegation of physicians from the West Bank, most of them surgeons and orthopedists, came to Gaza on Wednesday to assist the local medical teams, whose members are on the verge of collapse. The physicians said that Gaza’s hospitals are suffering serious shortages of beds and medical equipment. They also said that many of the more than 100 patients in intensive care units need to be transferred to hospitals in the West Bank because of overcrowding, unsterile conditions and the lack of means to treat them.”

And the Israeli Air Force has said that it has dropped more than 100 one-tonne bombs on Gaza, which at 360 square kilometres in size is just a little larger than half the size of Toronto (at 630 km2).

Without making any substantive promises or giving any details, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development spokesperson says the Harper government is exploring options “on how best to deploy Canadian medical expertise, financing and matériel to support victims of Hamas on the ground, and create sustainable medical solutions in the region.”