A second group of injured and sick children from Gaza arrived at Italy’s La Spezia port today aboard the Italian military hospital ship “Vulcano.”
The vessel, which departed from Al Harish in Egypt last Friday, brought the children to Italy for urgent medical treatment, according to a Vatican News report.
The initiative has been hailed as a success, yet the heartbreaking condition of the young patients has left a somber tone at the welcoming ceremony.
Welcoming the children at the dock on Monday, February 5, were the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Antonio Tajani, and Father Ibrahim Faltas, the Vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land.
Father Faltas, deeply involved in the project from its inception, expressed both joy for the implementation of the vital initiative and sorrow for the suffering of the little ones.
“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,” remarked Father Faltas.
Some of the children were in serious condition, and ambulances promptly transferred them to nearby hospitals participating in the operation, including the Meyer in Florence and the Gaslini in Genoa.
Father Faltas commended Italy for showing its “best face” and commitment to humanitarian aid. He extended his gratitude to Minister Tajani, representing all, along with the military and civilian authorities who collaborated in making this mission possible.
The Vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land expressed hope for the expansion of the operation due to the high number of children in Gaza urgently requiring medical care.
Many Italian hospitals have already expressed their willingness to participate, hinting that these initial arrivals might just be the beginning of a larger-scale operation.
Despite the logistical challenges posed by ongoing bombings in the southern part of the Strip and their extension to Rafah, Father Faltas emphasized the necessity of continuing the operation.
He shared moments of intense emotion, recounting experiences with the youngest child at just four months old and another at 18 months who arrived alone, having lost everyone.
“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,” said Father Ibrahim.
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 priest added.
The group of children who recently arrived joins the one that landed on January 29 at Ciampino Airport in Rome.
The children have been distributed to various pediatric hospitals across the country, including Meyer and Gaslini, as well as the Rizzoli Hospital in Bologna and Bambino Gesù in Rome, which handled the sorting and initial reception.