Hospitals in northern Israel have spent about $10 million treating wounded Syrians, some of whom are believed to be combatants, according to the Israeli media and a health ministry financial report.
According to the health ministry report released Wednesday, treating the Syrians in Israeli hospitals has cost more than 33 million New Israeli Shekels — almost $10 million — in the past year and a half, and hospitals in northern Israel have treated more than 1,500 of the wounded, the Israeli news site NRG reported.
That translates to more than 80 Syrians given free medical care every month, even as Islamic State militants fighting President Bashar Assad’s troops just over the border vow to establish a caliphate and wipe out Israel.
The health ministry figures did not include information on a separate field hospital set up by the Israel Defense Forces in the Golan Heights to treat the seriously wounded who have been dashed across the border by frantic relatives.
Dr. Tarif Bader, chief medical officer for the IDF Northern Command, told Israel’s IBA News the field hospital has treated more than 1,200 people who were brought to the Israeli side of the border fence within the last year.
Along with the patients come dramatic stories, including that of the 5-year-old boy hit in the neck by a stray bullet who underwent emergency surgery this week at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.
Israel’s Channel 2 News on Wednesday night reported that the boy was outside his home when shots rang out. As he ran for cover, a bullet hit him in his right cheek, lodging in his throat.
The Algemeiner, quoting Channel 2, reported that his father rushed him to the IDF military field hospital on the other side of the border after which he was transported to Haifa.
“We explained to the father that his son was very lucky, because the bullet stopped before hitting an important artery,” Dr. Saleh Nasir of Rambam’s Department of Oral Maxillofacial Surgery told Channel 2.
“We explained that even this is risky and challenging, but the bullet had to go,” Nasir said. “Even during the surgery, we were very concerned. … It was not clear if the bullet was clogging a blood vessel, and that the moment we removed it, heavy bleeding would occur. Fortunately, that did not happen.”
Another case at Rambam hospital was that of a 12-year-old boy from the Damascus area wounded in a mortar attack. He was led on a donkey by his brother to the Israeli military medical outpost set up on the Israeli side of the border.
The Algemeiner reported that a large proportion of the patients seeking Israeli medical care are young adult males, “some of whom are tacitly understood to be combatants fighting for various sides in the war.”
Gil Maor, a representative for Ziv Medical Center in the northern Israeli city of Safed told the Tazpit News Agency that the hospital “does not ask questions” but treats “everyone who comes.”
On Wednesday, Ziv Medical Center received two more wounded Syrians in serious condition. One, age 19, was unconscious with a very serious chest injury and fractures, NRG reported. The other, 18, suffered from shrapnel wounds.
“The cost of treating the wounded Syrians is very heavy, because these folks are arriving with very serious injuries,” Dr. Calin Shapira, deputy director of Ziv Medical Center, told NRG.
“Besides the fact that they are undergoing a very complex series of surgeries at enormous cost, we also provide them external fittings and medical equipment” which they then take back with them to Syria, Shapira added.
The Health Ministry released a statement emphasizing it would continue to treat Syrian wounded: “The state of Israel has always given humanitarian aid to anyone who asks as part of the values as human beings and as a nation [which is] to grant assistance in life-threatening cases or human suffering” whether they are citizens or not.