The Dixmude, a French helicopter carrier, has been docked in the Egyptian port of El Arish, 50 km (30 miles) west of the Gaza Strip, since November. The vessel is equipped with wards, operating theatres and 70 medical staff.
Nearly 120 injured people have been hospitalised on board, while hundreds more have been seen for outpatient consultations, including follow-ups on injuries and psychiatric issues, said Captain Alexandre Blonce, calling it an “unprecedented mission”.
Israeli forces launched all-out war to eliminate Hamas, the Palestinian group that governs Gaza, after its fighters carried out a surprise attack on southern Israel. At least 1,139 people were killed in the October 7 attack, according to an Al Jazeera tally based on Israeli statistics, and some 240 others were seized as hostages and taken back to the enclave.
More than 25,000 people have been killed in the Israeli assault on Gaza, mostly women and children, according to Palestinian authorities.
Palestinians in Gaza have struggled to get medical care at home as tens of thousands have been wounded, with most of Gaza’s 36 hospitals no longer functioning, and those remaining operating at far over capacity, the World Health Organization says.
Israel has targeted the largest remaining hospitals, saying Hamas fighters are operating there, something Hamas denies.
Those lucky enough to cross into Egypt, like 16-year-old Ahmed Abu Daqqa, who was injured on November 1, faced long waits for medical care.
Doctors in Gaza “took out the shrapnel and put in two rods, but a month later they discovered more shrapnel in my knee. They told me they’ll handle it later because there were too many surgeries,” he said on board the Dixmude.
Abu Daqqa said he tried many times to get a transfer” before finally crossing into Egypt.
He was then able to undergo further surgery where the rods and shrapnel were removed and a resulting infection dealt with. He also received physical therapy.
Abu Daqqa and others on board the French ship were awaiting further transfers to hospitals in Egypt or abroad.
Italy sent a similar floating hospital to the Egyptian coast in December.