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U.S., international volunteer doctors trapped in Gaza hospital

The 35 American and other international doctors came to Gaza in volunteer teams to help one of the territory’s few hospitals still functioning.

Now the foreign doctors are trapped, living at the southern Gaza hospital where they work.

They were meant to leave days ago. But on May 6, Israeli troops seized Gaza’s nearby crossing into Egypt as they launched an incursion into the city of Rafah, closing the main entry and exit point for international humanitarian workers.

Talks to evacuate the doctors between their governments and Israel — which controls all access to Gaza — have gone nowhere.

The two international teams have worked since early May on what was supposed to be a two-week mission. The volunteers consist mostly of American surgeons but also medical professionals from Britain, Australia, Egypt, Jordan, Oman and other nations.

One team of 17 doctors from the U.S-based group FAJR Scientific were living in a guesthouse in the city when Israel’s Rafah operation began. With no warning from the Israeli army to evacuate, the team was stunned by bombs landing a few hundred yards from the clearly-marked house, said Mosab Nasser, FAJR’s CEO.

They scrambled out, still wearing their scrubs, and moved to the European Hospital, where the other team was staying. The doctors say they don’t leave the premises.

Nasser said negotiations to get them out have been stop-and-go. Twice, they were told to get ready to leave, then told to stand down.

The U.S. State Department says it is working with Israel and Egypt for their departure.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., is pushing as well. She credits one of the trapped surgeons, Adam Hamawy, of Princeton, New Jersey, with saving her life in Iraq in 2004.

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