rome: The ship departed last Friday from Al Harish in Egypt, where the children had been taken after crossing the Rafah border. Welcoming them at the dock on Monday, 5 February, were the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Antonio Tajani, and the Vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land, Father Ibrahim Faltas, who has been involved in the project from its inception, coordinating with Egyptian, Palestinian, and Israeli institutions to overcome various logistical challenges.
Father Faltas expressed both joy and sadness, stating, “It is a day of great joy for the success of this operation, but also of deep sadness to see the miserable conditions in which these children have arrived. Some of them are in truly serious condition, and ambulances immediately transferred them to the nearest hospitals that are taking part in the operation: the Meyer in Florence and the Gaslini in Genoa.
“Once again, Italy has shown its best face and its commitment to humanitarian aid, and for this, I want to thank Minister Tajani, representing all, along with all the military and civilian authorities who collaborated,” Fr Faltas said.
The Vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land also shared his hope to expand the operation, considering the high number of children in Gaza requiring urgent medical care.
Welcoming the willingness to participate expressed by many other Italian hospitals, he acknowledged that these initial arrivals might just be the beginning of a larger-scale operation. The ongoing bombings in the southern part of the Strip and their extension to Rafah make the situation more challenging.
Expressing intense emotion, Father Ibrahim continued, “This morning, I experienced moments of intense emotion, seeing the youngest child at just 4 months to one at 18 months, who arrived here alone because they lost everyone. Many told me they were rescued from the rubble of their homes. Unfortunately, none of the operators spoke Arabic, so they quickly became attached to me and didn’t want me to leave. A little one called me ‘dad.’ We absolutely must continue this operation; there is still much suffering in Gaza that needs attention.”
The group of children today joins the one that arrived on January 29 by plane at Ciampino Airport in Rome.
The children have been transferred to various pediatric hospitals across the country, including the previously mentioned Meyer and Gaslini, as well as the Rizzoli Hospital in Bologna and Bambino Gesù in Rome, which handled the sorting and initial reception.