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Dr Dan Schwarzfuchs, deputy director-general of Clalit Health Services' Soroka medical centre, gives an interview at the facility in Beersheba in southern Israel on October 11, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

BEERSHEBA, Israel: Dan Schwarzfuchs has led the emergency unit in southern Israel’s biggest hospital for almost a decade, but the rhythm of wounded rushing in since Hamas’s bloody weekend assault was unimaginable for him.

“The moment we finished treating a patient and transferred the person to the operation room or to intensive care, another wounded would immediately take their place,” Schwarzfuchs, 60, told AFP.

“The floor of the entire trauma unit was covered in blood, we didn’t stop cleaning it.”

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With cover from a barrage of rockets, Hamas militants had breached Israel’s southern border on Saturday, pouring in by air, land and sea to gun down civilians in the streets and in their homes.

The unprecedented assault killed more than 1,200 people in Israel, which responded with relentless bombing of Hamas targets in Gaza, where officials reported over 1,300 dead.

The Hamas assault has also left more than 3,200 wounded in Israel, including 870 who were taken to the Soroka hospital in Beersheba, about 40 kilometres (24 miles) from the Gaza Strip.

Schwarzfuchs said he and his team rushed to the hospital as soon as he heard two consecutive sirens wailing early Saturday.

“We very quickly understood that it was a war,” he said.

“Very quickly, all the employees of the hospital were here, more than 1,000 doctors, all the nurses, all those who should be there were present... and even those who were not meant to be there - the nurses on maternity leave, the doctors, came from everywhere.”

The first of the wounded began arriving at 8:00 am (0500 GMT), said Schwarzfuchs, who is also deputy director of the hospital.

“And from this moment on, we treated the injured in the trauma care unit at a crazy rhythm that we’d never imagined was possible or that we were capable of handling.”

‘Complete state of shock’

Since Saturday’s attack, the doctor has not been able to leave the hospital to go home.

In all, 120 wounded people were treated in the trauma unit in the first 24 hours of the war - higher than the average number of patients in a normal month, said Schwarzfuchs.

“The number of the wounded is astronomical. During the 2014 Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip, 40 wounded was already a very difficult day,” he said.

The type of wounds were also different from what they were used to.

“Most of them were injured by bullets, which required large amounts of blood transfusions,” said the doctor.

Besides the patients brought to the trauma unit, young survivors of a rave party where the militant group killed 270 people were brought in to the emergency wards in a seriously traumatised state.

“They were in a complete state of shock after having witnessed this indescribable massacre,” said Schwarzfuchs.

The hospital’s personnel were also stretched, fielding requests from distraught family members seeking information about their missing loved ones.

“We tried to help them as far as we can but many of them left depressed, without finding anyone,” he said.

Schwarzfuchs, who is also a doctor at the Alumim kibbutz where inhabitants managed to repel Hamas fighters, said some of the patients brought in were people he knew personally.

“It’s difficult to treat people who we know well. But it’s a bit normal here, we are a small country, everyone knows everyone,” said Schwarzfuchs.

An officer in the army before becoming a doctor, he said he was bracing for tough days ahead.

“It’s certain that there will be more wounded. But we are all ready.”