Khaled Benboutrif is a general practitioner in Toulouse. For the past two weeks, he has been on a humanitarian mission to the European hospital in the Gaza Strip. Narrative.
Khaled Benboutrif has not been able to sleep since his return to Toulouse. “I am struck by the silence, the calm. I had gotten used to the sounds of bombings, screams in the corridors…” confides the general practitioner, dark circles under his eyes. He left his office, located in Bagatelle, and his three children aged 9, 12 and 15 for two weeks to go to the Gaza Strip, from January 22 to February 6.
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Accompanied by around twenty doctors, in coordination with Palmed, the association of Palestinian doctors, the former emergency doctor of the Union clinic lent a helping hand to the staff of the European hospital, between Khan Younes and Rafah, in the south of the enclave. On site, Khaled Benboutrif met people “exhausted, bruised”, “in great psychological suffering”.
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For 15 days, horror was the soundtrack of his life. On a daily basis, from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., the Toulouse resident has multiplied. The wounded were arriving by the dozens. Some, he assures, received a sniper bullet in the head. Others have a limb torn off by the bombs. “The people I treated were civilians. They were not collateral victims of the Israeli army, they were targets. At no time during my stay did I come across Hamas fighters,” certifies the health professional.
“The sound of bombs was getting closer…”
The sixty-year-old man treats the injured on the ground with rudimentary equipment. An event “deeply” marked the team of humanitarian doctors: Abir, a seven-month pregnant woman, aged 24, was admitted to intensive care, in a coma. This diabetic Gazan was unable to seek treatment for days. The support came too late. Her baby died. The next day, the young woman joined him.
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The European hospital has become a refuge for hundreds of Palestinians forced into exodus. Makeshift shelters were set up around it. It was spared from the bombings. “The health establishment only received fragments,” says Khaled Benboutrif. But as the days passed, the sound of bombs got closer…”
This is the first time that the disaster medicine specialist has gone to Palestinian territory. “It was my morals that pushed me to go there. And maybe a bit of my Muslim faith. I believe that the population of Gaza has the right to care, like any other person in the world,” says the practitioner. The emergency doctor left the hospital with a heavy heart, as if he had “betrayed” his priesthood. He plans to return to Gaza soon. If Khaled Benboutrif made the decision to return, it was to bear witness, to tell the story of the “hell” from which he escaped.