Italy to treat 100 Palestinian children in its hospitals

Rome: Italy will provide hospital treatment for 100 Palestinian children from Gaza after transporting them by plane and ship in an operation to be launched in the next few days, Defense Minister Guido Crosetto said.

The first 30 children will fly from Egypt, Crosetto said, where they sought refuge and medical assistance after escaping the Israeli bombardment of the neighboring Gaza enclave.

Another 30 will reach Italy with their families at the end of January aboard the military vessel Vulcano which will depart from the Egyptian port of Al-Arish. Crosetto did not clarify when or how the remaining 40 children will be transported.

Over 25,700 Palestinians have been killed since Israeli forces launched an 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.

“One cannot remain indifferent in the face of the serious humanitarian crisis,” Crosetto said in a statement, adding that Italy’s move was “a moral duty more than a political one.”

The children will be treated in hospitals in Bologna, Florence, Genoa and Rome, the statement said.

Italy initially backed Israel’s war on Hamas, saying it had the right to defend itself following the Oct. 7 attack, and it has avoided criticizing the Israeli government even as the death toll in Gaza has mounted.

Crosetto said the transfer of the children would be organized out of Al-Arish, which is less than 50 km (31 miles) from the Rafah crossing into Gaza, and has become the international coordination center for humanitarian aid.

About 1,000 people from Gaza have been treated on a French warship turned field hospital docked off the coast of Egypt, its captain said on Sunday.