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Gaza cancer patients arrive in Turkey for treatment

A Palestinian cancer patient, who had crossed from Gaza into Egypt, is carried on a stretcher after arriving at the Esenboga Airport in Ankara on November 16, 2023. - Two planes carrying more than two dozen Palestinian cancer patients, many of them children, arrived in Turkey for treatment in the early hours of November 16. (Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP)

More than two dozen Palestinian cancer patients, who had crossed from Gaza into Egypt, arrived in Turkey for treatment in the early hours of Thursday, Agence France-Presse reported, citing Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency.

Two planes carrying the patients, many of them children, landed at Ankara airport shortly after 00:30 am local time (2130 GMT).

Turkey has sent a ship loaded with material for field hospitals, ambulances and generators to Egypt to treat civilians who have been able to flee Israel’s military operation against Hamas militants in the enclave.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas in response to its attacks on October 7, which killed an estimated 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and saw 240 hostages taken to Gaza.

The Hamas-run territory’s health ministry says Israel’s ensuing aerial bombardment and ground offensive have killed 11,500 people, mostly civilians and including thousands of children.

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 27 patients had been flown to Turkey from Egypt, along with 13 companions, without specifying whether these were doctors or family members.

He added that the cancer patients had been able to cross from Gaza into Egypt via the Rafah border crossing.

Koca had been in Egypt for discussions on the delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza, and said the patients were able to be transferred to Turkey thanks to “coordination between Turkey, Egypt and Israel.”

He also said that Turkey was waiting for Egypt’s permission to open its first field hospital at the Rafah crossing.

“I hope that in the near future — our efforts are going in this direction — we will be able to establish a field hospital in Gaza, in the area near the Rafah gate,” he said.

Turkey, a mostly Muslim but officially secular nation, has long championed the Palestinian cause and, more recently, has stepped up its verbal attacks against Israel for the soaring civilian toll of its military operation.

Speaking before members of his Islamic-rooted ruling party, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday called Israel “a terror state” that was committing “genocide.”

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