French hospital ship docks off Sinai with 40 beds

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

French President Emmanuel Macron, left, stands at attention on the deck of the amphibious helicopter carrier Dixmude docked in the French Navy base of Toulon, southern France, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. (Eric Gaillard, Pool via AP)
French President Emmanuel Macron, left, stands at attention on the deck of the amphibious helicopter carrier Dixmude docked in the French Navy base of Toulon, southern France, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. (Eric Gaillard, Pool via AP)

A ship dispatched by France has docked off the coast of El Arish in Egypt’s northern Sinai and will serve as a floating hospital for Palestinian civilians wounded in the Israel-Hamas war in adjacent Gaza, France President Emmanuel Macron announces.

The Dixmude ship contains 40 hospital beds, adding 10 percent to the capacity of hospital services set up in the desert of northern Sinai bordering Gaza, a French diplomat tells The Times of Israel.

The ship comes equipped with a helicopter landing pad to allow for the speedy transfer of patients from Egypt’s Rafah crossing onto the ship. Damage from fighting in Gaza has made docking large ships off the Strip untenable.

The Dixmude is slated to be operational within the coming hours or days, the French diplomat says, adding that Paris is coordinating the effort with Egyptian officials and humanitarian agencies on the ground.

It will be staffed by doctors from France’s defense ministry as well as its civilian health sanitary reserve, which is being deployed abroad for the first time, the diplomat says.

Israel has been pushing for field hospitals and other alternatives to the existing medical centers in Gaza, saying that Hamas is operating command centers beneath them.

The World Health Organization says there are currently 30,000 wounded Palestinians in Gaza, based on figures furnished by Hamas-controlled health authorities.

Paris is also preparing to transfer as many as 50 wounded Gazans back to France for treatment, the diplomat says.

France has held off on calling for a complete ceasefire, backing Israel’s right to self-defense against Hamas. However, a ceasefire is the eventual goal, the French diplomat says.

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