IDF using life-saving new field treatment for Syrian war wounded

500-plus Syrians treated, Northern Command’s chief medical officer Tarif Bader reveals; says he neither knows nor cares whether casualties are Assad supporters or rebels

Mitch Ginsburg is the former Times of Israel military correspondent.

Soldiers setting up an Israeli field hospital in the Golan Heights (photo credit: Gili Yaari/Flash90)
Soldiers setting up an Israeli field hospital in the Golan Heights (photo credit: Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Over the past ten months — ever since Israel began aiding Syrians wounded in their country’s civil war — the IDF has treated over 500 Syrian nationals, the Northern Command’s chief medical officer told the Times of Israel on Wednesday.

“The first incident that we handled was on February 16, 2013,” said Col. Dr. Tarif Bader, the Head of the Northern Medical Command. “There were seven wounded and we evacuated them to [Rebecca] Sieff Hospital in Safed.”

Since then, he said, the IDF has treated wounded Syrians either at the Golan Heights’ divisional medical unit or at a field hospital established expressly in order to treat those injured in the civil war.

The field hospital is not open at all times. Instead, it is located in a position that makes it easy for Syrians to deliver their wounded and for the IDF, when the need arises, to bring doctors and other medical personnel to the field.

Col. Dr. Tarif Bader (Photo credit: Mitch Ginsburg/ Times of Israel)
Col. Dr. Tarif Bader (Photo credit: Mitch Ginsburg/Times of Israel)

Bader said that though the evacuation of a Syrian national to Israel requires the authorization of the upper echelons of the IDF command, “there has never been a delay while waiting for authorization.”

“Those that are granted entry to Israel and afforded tax-payer-funded treatment at Israeli hospitals, particularly Sieff and the Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya, are triaged and treated solely on the basis of need. “I don’t know who the wounded belongs to and I don’t care,” Bader said. “I don’t know what ethnic group he belongs to or what side he’s fighting for. The only criteria is need.”

Bader was deliberately vague in describing how the wounded arrive on Israeli soil and how they return to Syria. Asked how they get back after they have been treated, he would say only, “the same way they came.”

He did reveal, however, that dozens of Syrians have been given a new life-saving treatment that the IDF has recently introduced into the medical corps but has yet to use on an Israeli soldier. Holding a glass bottle of freeze-dried plasma, he said that blood loss, within the first hour after injury, is the primary cause of death for soldiers in the field. Ordinary plasma, known as fresh frozen plasma, must be kept at a minimum of -25 degrees Celsius and is therefore only administered at hospitals with the appropriate freezers. The FDP, made by the German Red Cross, can be kept in a simple refrigerator or even at room temperature. Mixed with IV fluid, the powdered unit of plasma can be intravenously introduced to a patient within minutes.

The simple treatment restores a patient’s intravascular volume in a far more significant way than mere IV fluids. Noting that the IDF has treated dozens of Syrians in this manner, he said “it has made a tremendous difference in the field.”

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