At least 2,000 medical evacuations from Gaza prevented by Rafah crossing closure, says WHO

A view of the destruction at the Rafah Crossing, in Gaza

CAIRO (Reuters) - The closure of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza has prevented the medical evacuations of at least 2,000 patients, a World Health Organization official said on Tuesday, calling for Rafah and other routes to be reopened.

Before the closure, "approximately 50 critical patients a day left Gaza ... It means that since the 7th of May at least 2,000 people have been unable to leave Gaza to receive medical care," said Rik Peeperkorn, WHO representative in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Rafah crossing was the main conduit for evacuations as well as for humanitarian aid earlier in the war that began between Israel and Hamas on Oct. 7. It shut when Israel launched an operation on the southern edge of the Gaza strip in May.

The United States, Egypt and Qatar held talks late last week aimed at re-opening the crossing and increasing humanitarian aid flows, according to Egyptian security sources. But Rafah, where Egypt wants Israeli troops to pull back and a Palestinian presence to be restored, remains closed.

Movement through the nearby Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing, which Peeperkorn described as unsafe, has been impeded by insecurity and logistical challenges.

At least 10,000 people are in need of evacuation from Gaza, Peeperkorn said, adding that this was an underestimate of the number needing critical care for both war traumas and chronic diseases.

"We need more routes for medical emergency evacuation (medevac), we would like to see Kerem Shalom and other routes also opened for medevac where patients can then be referred to the referral hospitals in East Jerusalem and the West Bank," Peeperkorn said.

A group of five children who had been evacuated from northern Gaza to Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis and were reportedly poised to leave the strip were still awaiting evacuation, Peeperkorn said.

(Reporting by Nafisa Eltahir; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)