Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Some 32 volunteers of the humanitarian outfit -- the Medical Emergency Rescue Committee (MER-C) -- departed for Gaza, Palestine, to work on the second phase of construction of the Indonesian Hospital in the conflicted area.

The volunteers are divided into two groups, each of which departed for Gaza on Friday (Feb 22) and Saturday (Feb 23).

Member of MER-C Presidium Faried Thalib, Dr Arief Rachman, MER-C Chair of the Construction Division Idrus Muhamad Alatas, and architect of the hospital building Rizal Syarifuddin are joining the team.

According to member of MER-C Presidium Sarbini Abdul Murad -- the first Indonesian doctor to have succeeded in entering the Gaza front line during the Palestine-Israel conflict in 2008-2009 -- the volunteers from the MER-C Construction Division are estimated to stay in Gaza for a year.

He noted that most of the dispatched volunteers are the alumni of the first phase of the hospital`s construction, whose commitment and expertise had been demonstrated by the establishment of the current Indonesian Hospital in Gaza.

Their departure to Gaza is possible after MER-C received entry permits from the Egyptian government and local authorities in Gaza, with assistance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"This team has been waiting for a year, until finally we met Foreign Minister (Retno Marsudi) and her staff (informing us) that the team can go (to Gaza)," Murad revealed.

The budget for the second-phase construction of the Indonesian Hospital has come from donations offered by Indonesian people reaching Rp75 billion to Rp80 billion (US$5.7 million).

Construction of the Indonesian Hospital in Gaza initially began with the mission of the Indonesian humanitarian aid team that brought medical aid for people in Gaza, who suffered from a 22-day war between the Palestinians and Israeli Zionists that took place since the end 2008 until early 2009.

At that time, the mission was led by Ministry of Health Head of Crisis Control Rustam S. Pakaya and Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director of Middle East Affairs Aidil Chandra Salim.

In its development, MER-C then raised funds from the Indonesian people to build a hospital in Bayt Lahiya, North Gaza.

In fact, the official launch of the Indonesian Hospital`s construction in Gaza will be attended by volunteers and journalists, who had participated in the mission, six years earlier.

However, due to the problem in getting permission to enter Gaza, the launch was held in Indonesia on January 9, 2016.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla attended the handover ceremony of the Indonesian Hospital from MER-C to the Palestinian people.

The Indonesian Hospital in Gaza is evidence of Indonesia`s staunch support for the Palestinians` unfinished struggle for their independence.

However, in October last year, the process of building the hospital was challenged by threats from the Israeli military that launched air raids, targeting more than 80 sites in the besieged Gaza Strip in retaliation for rockets fired at southern Israel.

According to Al Jazeera, none of the Israeli citizens were killed or wounded by the rockets that the Palestinian fighters launched from Gaza Strip. Instead, one of the Israeli air raids wounded nine Palestinians and damaged the Indonesian Hospital.

After hours of air raids, Al Jazeera reported that the Islamic Jihad movement on Saturday announced Gaza ceasefire with Israel.

The Israeli attacks that had damaged its hospital in the 11-year-long besieged Palestinian territory was condemned by the Indonesian Government, saying that Indonesia`s government and its people will continue to support the Palestinian people in their struggle for independence.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo condemned the air raids that the Israeli jet fighters launched on October 27, 2018, that had damaged the Indonesian hospital.

The head of state noted that the attacks had damaged not only the Indonesian Hospital but also its neighboring areas. However, this incident will not be able to change Jakarta`s stance on the Palestinian issues.

"Indonesia will remain with the People of Palestine in fighting for their independence. We do not retreat," President Widodo noted.

Indonesia has been known as one of the staunch supporters of the Palestinian people`s unfinished struggle for independence. Jakarta`s political stance on the Palestinian issues has also remained unchanged since the era of President Soekarno.

In 1962, this founding father of Indonesia had uttered a statement, which was then used as a guidance in the Indonesian foreign policy on the Palestinian issues.

"As long as the freedom of Palestine has yet to be returned to the Palestinians, then it will forever be for Indonesia to stand in defiance against the occupation by Israel," President Soekarno stated.

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Reporter: Yashinta Difa Pramudyani
Editor: Gusti Nur Cahya Aryani
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