JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli military’s medical and rescue team in Haiti has concluded its operations and left the country.
The delegation, including 218 Israeli soldiers and officers and 18 civilians, was set to leave Haiti on a chartered plane on Wednesday afternoon. The delegation will be welcomed in Israel Thursday morning in a military ceremony in the presence of senior Israeli officials and senior army commanders.
The plane is also carrying a 5-year-old Haitian child who will have heart surgery in Israel, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
The team left more than 30 tons of medical equipment and supplies in Haiti to help further earthquake relief efforts, according to the IDF, including bandaging gear, surgery equipment, two incubators and other medical accessories, as well as 1,150 blankets, 30 large-sized tents, 500 mattresses, 200 sleeping bags and kitchen equipment. The equipment will be distributed to tent cities throughout Haiti, coordinated by the Israeli ambassador in the country.
On Tuesday, the delegation held a ceremony to mark the closing of the Israeli field hospital set up in Haiti. The hospital’s commander, Col. Itzik Kryce, conveyed his great appreciation to the medical staff, saying that "You were a drop of hope in a sea of desperation and sometimes made the difference between life and death. It is a great privilege, and you’ve done it as human beings, following the spirit of the IDF and in accordance with the values of the IDF Medical Corps.
"We came here to lend a hand and provide assistance, but above all in order to provide hope and to show that even in the worst situations, a human being can be a symbol of hope to others, wherever they may be," Kryce added.
During its stay in Haiti, the delegation treated more than 1,100 patients, conducted 319 successful surgeries, delivered 16 babies including three Caesarean sections, and saved many from the ruins of the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake.