In the chaotic parking lot of a hospital in southern Israel, volunteers have set up kiosks, handing out food and water, along with words of comfort and reassurance.
The Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon is one of the two major hospitals in Israel’s south. Ambulances enter the hospital parking, with their sirens blaring at high decibels, carrying Israelis wounded in the ongoing clash with Hamas militants. Paramedics, working overtime, run to the wounded, put them on stretchers and rush to the emergency department.
An String Reveals crew, reporting from war-ravaged Israel, caught up with those at the hospital to understand their plight.
“The two hospitals in southern Israel, Barzilai in Ashkelon and Soroka in Be’er Sheva have received over 2,000 wounded since the start of the attack. Since the hospital authorities could not handle the sheer number of people being brought in, hundreds were shifted to central hospitals in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv,” Avishag Avinoam, a volunteer at the hospital, told String Reveals.
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After Hamas launched a surprise land-sea-air assault on Israeli soil in the early hours of Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a ‘state of war’ and ordered security forces to carry out strikes in the besieged Gaza region. Hamas militants went door-to-door killing off and kidnapping civilians and security personnel while Israel bombed buildings on the Gaza Strip, keeping up with Netanyahu’s promise of reducing the region into “rubble”.
The war has so far claimed over 1,500 lives.
“We are handling a lot of wounded, something that Israel has never experienced before,” the volunteer added. “Not only were we unprepared for something like this, they (Hamas) caught us by surprise.”
The volunteers are largely made up of young people who have been stuck in southern Israel due to the ongoing war.
“We could not go out of our houses. Then we started to receive news of our friends being reported missing,” said El Friedman to String Reveals, accompanied by her friend Zayala Brown, volunteers at Barzilai.
“Everyone in the country is looking for their friends and family. We do not have enough information on whether they were taken to Gaza by Hamas militants or they are in hiding,” Ms Brown said.
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“Three of my close friends are missing along with hundreds others. We are such a small country that everyone is affected. It is completely heartbreaking,” she added.
Netanyahu on Monday vowed to “change the Middle East” as Israel continued to pound Gaza with air strikes.
“What Hamas will experience will be difficult and terrible… we are going to change the Middle East,” he said. “This is only the beginning… we are all with you and we will defeat them with force, enormous force.”