Wounded Gazans evacuated to Qatar hope to learn to walk again

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Shahed Al-Kotati, part of a group of Palestinians struck down by the war in Gaza who are receiving medical care in Qatar, hopes that by next year, she’ll be able to walk on her own using a prosthetic limb.

In October, Al-Kotati’s home in Gaza was bombed. She and her husband fell to the street from the second floor. Later, she was forced from Gaza City’s Al Shifa Hospital when Israeli forces ordered its evacuation. No ambulance was available.

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“They (the Israeli military) forced us to go by wheelchair,” the 23-year-old told Reuters from the safety of a Doha hospital.

“I hope they’ll attach the prosthetic limb so that I can let go of the walker and all these things and walk on my own again. God willing.”

Al-Kotati, whose left leg was amputated above the knee, is one of the many Palestinians who lost a limb after Israeli air strikes or shelling in Gaza.

At Doha’s Hamad General Hospital, the staff help her to move around with a walker. The best thing here, she says, is that they support her psychologically.

Many Palestinians, including children, have had limbs amputated because of the severity of their wounds during the Israeli offensive, which Israel says is intended to eliminate the Palestinian militant group Hamas and secure the release of the Israeli hostages they hold in Gaza.

In December 2023, Qatar’s emir launched an initiative to bring 1,500 wounded Palestinians from Gaza to Qatar for treatment. So far, around 500 have arrived.

“This story of our patients starts in Gaza. The victims - most of them - have been victims of bombings and other military activities,” said Sandro Rizoli, Medical Trauma Director at Hamad General Hospital.

The war erupted when Hamas fighters stormed into southern Israel from Gaza on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking about 250 hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel launched an air, ground and sea assault on the Palestinian territory. More than 37,000 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 85,000 injured in Israel’s military offensive, according to the Gaza health ministry.

By January, the U.N. estimated that more than 1,000 children had lost legs. Gaza’s main prosthetic limb centre, a Qatari-funded hospital in Gaza City, was shuttered in the early months of the war after an Israeli strike, Gaza health authorities say.

Wafaa Abou Samaan, 27, another Palestinian being treated in Qatar, was eight months pregnant when her house was struck.

“My husband was martyred, my father-in-law as well. My daughters were injured, two of them,” she said. One of her daughters is also receiving treatment in Qatar. Another injured daughter remains in Gaza.

Abou Samaan lost her right leg below the knee and her lower left arm was amputated. Her baby was delivered safely in Egypt in December, before they were flown to Qatar.

“We have no one left, we don’t have a home, nothing,” she said. “We are sitting here, but our minds and hearts are there (in Gaza) with them.”

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