Iran News ...


01/14/09

Gaza Witness Reports


The following the on-scene first-person witness reports by Vittorio Arrigoni and Ewa Jasiewicz, are absolutely riveting!  Bullet holes and body parts are real, kind of stuff that grabs attention. They are two people, journalists and activists,  who are working with the Ambulance Services in Gaza, who have been writing some very gruesome and impressive stories about what exactly is happening to the people. Their work is primarily available on the Free Gaza Website.  But they've also been published in the Palestine Chronicle
, ICH, Counterpunch, The Guardian, and a number of other places.

 

Al Naakba 2009

By Vittorio Arrigoni; source: FreeGaza.org, Jannuary 8, 2009

 

 

They parade in fear, their eyes looking upwards, surrendering to the sky showering terror and death upon  them, fearing the earth that keeps shaking under every step they take, opening craters where there were houses, schools, universities, markets, hospitals, and burying their lives within them forever.  I've seen caravans of desperate Palestinians evacuate Jabalia, Beit Hanoun and all the refugee camps in Gaza, crowding the United Nations' schools like earthquake survivors, like victims of a tsunami which is eating into the Gaza Strip day by day, along with its civilian population, without pity or compliance with human rights and the Geneva Conventions.  Most of all, without a single Western government stirring a finger to stop this massacre, or sending medical staff out here, or stopping the genocide that Israel is smearing its hands with in these hours.

 

The indiscriminate attacks against the hospitals and medical staff continue.  Yesterday, after having left the Al Auda hospital in Jabalia, I received a call from Alberto, a Spanish colleague at the ISM - a bomb had been dropped there and Abu Mohammed, a nurse, had been seriously injured to his head.  Just moments before, in front of a café, I'd been listening to his stories of the heroic deeds of Communist Abu Mohammed's heroes, the leaders of the Popular Front: George Habbash, Abu Ali Mustafa, Ahmad Al Sadat.  His eyes lit up when he heard that the first notions of what Palestine and its immense tragedy were, had been passed onto me by my parents, both Communists through and through.  By my mother, a "raissa", or Mayor of a town in Northern Italy.  He asked me who had been the truly revolutionary leaders of the Italian left from the past, and I said Antonio Gramsci.  For those of today I took my time, telling him I'd have replied to that question today.  But Abu Mohammed now lies in a coma, in the same hospital where he works.  He spared himself my disappointing reply.

 

Towards midnight I received another call, from Eva this time - the building she was in was under attack.  I know that building well, in the centre of Gaza City.  I've spent a night there with some Palestinian photojournalist friends of mine.  They try to capture through images and words something of the unnatural catastrophe we're enduring in the last ten days.  Reuters, Fox News, Russia Today and many, many other local or foreign agencies were under fire by seven rockets shot by an Israeli helicopter.  They managed to evacuate everyone on time before anyone was seriously injured - all those cameramen, photographers, reporters - all Palestinian, considering Israel won't allow any international journalists to set foot in Gaza.  There are no "strategic" targets around that building, nor a resistance fighting off the deadly armoured Israeli vehicles, which can be found a way away towards the North.  Clearly, someone in Tel Aviv cannot bear the images of the massacres of civilians clashing with the ones that the Israeli officers' briefings provide while offering the mercenary journalists their aperitif.  Through these press conferences they're declaring to the world that the bombs' targets are only the Hamas terrorists, not those atrociously mutilated children we pull out of the rubble every day.

 

At Zetun, about ten kilometres from Jabalia, a bombed building crumbled over a family, leaving about ten victims.  The ambulances had to wait several hours before they could reach the spot, as the military persist in shooting at us.  They shoot at ambulances and bomb hospitals.  A few days ago, while I was on the air with a well-known Milanese radio station, an Israeli "pacifist" clearly spelt out to me that this was a war where both sides used all the weapons at their disposal.  I thus invite Israel to drop one of its many atomic bombs upon us, those they keep secretly stashed away, defying all treaties against nuclear proliferation.  Why not just drop that decisive bomb of theirs and put an end to the inhuman agony of thousands of bodies, lying in tatters in the overcrowded hospital wards I visited?

 

I took some black and white photos yesterday, the caravans of mule-drawn carts, overloaded beyond belief with children waving white drapes pointing skywards, their faces pale and terrified.  Looking through those snaps of fleeing refugees today, I felt shivers down my spine.  If they could only be superimposed with those witnessing the Nakba of 1948, the Palestinian catastrophe, they would be a perfect mirror image of them.  The cowardly passiveness of self-styled democratic states and governments are responsible for a new catastrophe in full swing right now, a new Nakba, a brand new ethnic cleansing befalling the Palestinian population.

 

Until a few moments ago we counted 650 dead, 153 murdered children, in addition to 3,000 injured, and innumerable missing.  The number of civilian deaths in Israel has thankfully stopped at 4.  But after this afternoon the death toll on the Palestinian side requires an urgent recount since the Israeli Army has started attacking the United Nations schools.  The very same that had been offering shelter to the thousands evacuated under threat of an imminent attack.  They chased them off the refugee camps, the villages, only to collect them all in one place, an easier target.  Three schools were attacked today, the last being at Al Fakhura, in Jabalia, which was hit full on its head.  Over 80 dead.  In a heartbeat, men, women, elderly people and children were wiped away, believing themselves to be safe within those blue-tinted walls adorned with a UN logo.  The other 20 UN schools are now shaking in fear.  There's no way out anywhere in the Gaza Strip.  This isn't Lebanon, where the civilians in the Southern villages targeted by the Israeli bombs could flee to the North, or to Syria or Jordan.  From one enormous open-air prison, the Gaza Strip has become a deadly trap.  We look at one another in bewilderment and ask ourselves whether the UN Security Council will finally unanimously condemn these attacks after their own schools have been targeted.  Someone out there has really decided to turn this place into a desert, and then call it peace. 

 

A long night on the ambulances awaits us now, even after dawn has become an illusion around here.  Antenna towers for our mobile phones all along the Strip have been destroyed and we've stopped relying on them.  I hope I may one day be able to see all the friends I can no longer contact, but I'm under no illusions.  Everyone bar none in Gaza is a walking target. 

 

The Italian Consulate has just contacted me, saying that tomorrow they shall evacuate a fellow Italian, an elderly nun who'd lived near the Catholic church in Gaza for the last twenty years, and had by now been adopted by the Palestinians in the Strip.  The consul gently urged me to seize this last opportunity and escape this hell with the nun.  I thanked him for the offer, but I'm not moving from here - I just can't.  For the sake of the losses we endured, before being Italian, Spanish, British or Australian, right now we are all Palestinian.  If only we could do that for just one minute a day, the way we were all Jewish during the Holocaust, I think we would have been spared this entire massacre.

 

Stay human

 

Vittorio Arrigoni

 


In Gaza, Hippocrates is Dead
Written by Vittorio Arrigoni for Il Manifesto, January 12, 2009
 

 


In Gaza, a firing squad put Hippocrates up against a wall, aimed and fired.  The absurd declarations of an  Israeli secret services' spokesman, according to which the army was given the green light in firing at ambulances because they allegedly carried terrorists, is an illustration of the value that Israel assigns to human life these days - the lives of their enemies, that is.  It's worth revisiting what's stated in the Hippocratic Oath, which every doctor swears upon before starting to practice the profession. 

 

The following passages are especially worthy of note: "I solemnly pledge myself to consecrate my life to the service of humanity.  I will practice my profession with conscience and dignity.  The health and life of my patient will be my first consideration.  I will cure all patients with the same diligence and commitment.  I will not permit considerations of religion, nationality, race, party politics, or social standing to intervene between my duty and my patient."

 

Seven doctors and voluntary nurses have been killed from the start of the bombing campaign, and about ten ambulances were shot at by the Israeli artillery.  The survivors are shaking with fear, but refuse to take a step back.  The crimson flashes of the ambulances are the only bursts of light in the dark streets of Gaza, bar the flashes that precede an explosion.  Regarding these crimes, the last report comes from Pierre Wettach, chief of the Red Cross in Gaza.  His ambulances had access to the spot of a massacre, in Zaiton, East of Gaza City, only 24 hours after the Israeli attack. 

 

The rescue-workers state they found themselves faced by a blood-curdling scenario.  "In one of the houses four small children were found near the body of their dead mother.  They were too weak to stand on their feet.  We also found an adult survivor, and he too was also too weak to stand up.  About 12 corpses were found lying on the mattresses."  The witnesses to this umpteenth massacre describe how the Israeli soldiers, after getting into the neighbourhood, gathered the numerous members of the Al Samouni family in one building and then proceeded to repeatedly bomb it.  My ISM partners and I have been driving around in the Half Red Moon ambulances for days, suffering many attacks and losing a dear friend, Arafa, struck by a howitzer shot from a cannon.  A further three paramedics, all friends, are presently inpatients at the hospitals they worked in until a few days ago.  Our duty on the ambulances is to pick up the injured, not carry guerrilla fighters.  When we find a man lying in the street in a pool of his own blood, we don't have the time to check his papers or ask him whether he roots for Hamas or Fatah.  Most seriously injured can't talk, much like the dead.  A few days ago, while picking up a badly wounded patient, another man with light injuries tried to hop onto the ambulance.  We pushed him out, just to make it clear to whoever's watching from up above that we don't serve as a taxi to usher members of the resistance around.  We only take on the most fatally wounded - of which there's always a plentiful supply, thanks to Israel. 

 

Last night at Al Qudas hospital in Gaza City, 17-year-old Miriam was carried in, with full-blown labour pains.  Her father and sister-in-law, both dead, had passed through the hospital in the morning, both victims of indiscriminate bombing.  Miriam gave birth to a gorgeous baby during the night, not aware of the fact that while she lay in the delivery room, her young husband had arrived in the morgue one floor below her.

 

In the end, even the United Nations realised that here in Gaza, we're all in the same boat, all moving targets for the snipers.  The death toll is now at 789 dead, 3,300 wounded (410 in critical conditions), 230 children killed and countless missing.  The death toll on the Israeli side has thankfully stopped at 4.  John Ging, chief of UNRWA (UN agency for the rights of Palestinian Refugees) has stated that the UN announced they shall suspend their humanitarian activities in the Gaza Strip.  I bumped into Ging in the Ramattan press office and saw him shake his finger with disdain at Israel before the cameras.  The UN stopped its work in Gaza after two of its operators were killed yesterday, ironically during the three-hour truce that Israel had announced and as usual, had failed to comply with.  "The civilians in Gaza have three hours a day at their disposal in which to survive, the Israeli soldiers have the remaining 21 in which to try and exterminate them," I heard Ging state two steps away from me. 

 

Yasmine, the wife of one of the many journalists waiting in line at the Erez pass, wrote to me from Jerusalem.  Israel won't grant these journalists a pass to let them in and film or describe the immense unnatural catastrophe that has befallen us in the last thirteen days.  These were her words: "The day before yesterday I went to have a look at Gaza from the outside.  The world's journalists are all huddled on a small sandy hill a few km from the border.  Innumerable cameras are pointed towards us.  Planes circle us overhead - you can hear them but you can't see them.  They seem like illusions, like something in your head until you see the black smoke rising from the horizon, in Gaza.  The hill has also become a tourist site for the Israelis in the area.  With their large binoculars and cameras, they come and watch the bombings live."

 

While I write this piece of correspondence in a mad rush, a bomb is dropped onto the building next to the one I'm in now.  The windowpanes shake, my ears ache, I look out the window and see that the building gathering the major Arabic media agencies has been struck.  It's one of Gaza City's tallest buildings, the Al Jaawhara building.  A camera crew is permanently stationed on the roof, I can now see them all bending around on the ground, waving their arms and asking for help as they're covered by a black cloud of smoke. 

 

Paramedics and journalists, the most heroic occupations in this corner of the world.  At the Al Shifa hospital yesterday I paid Tamim a visit - he's a journalist who survived an air raid.  He explained how he thinks that Israel is adopting the same identical terrorist techniques as Al-Qaeda, bombing a building, waiting for the journalists and ambulances to arrive and then dropping another bomb to finish the latter two off as well.  In his view that's why there've been so many casualties among the journalists and paramedics.  As he said this, the nurses around his bed all nodded in agreement.  Tamim smilingly showed me his two stubs for legs.  He was happy he was still around to tell the story, while his colleague, Mohammed, had died with a camera in his hand when the second explosion had proved fatal.  In the meantime I asked about the bomb that was just dropped on the building next door, where two journalists, both Palestinian, one from Libyan TV and the other from Dubai TV, were injured.  This is a harsh new reminder that this massacre must in no way be described or recorded.  All that's left for me to hope is that among the Israeli military summit no one reads Il Manifesto, or habitually visits my blog.

 

Stay human

 

Vittorio Arrigoni


 

I won't leave my country
Written by Vittorio Arrigoni for Il Manifesto, January 11, 2009
 (Translated from Italian by Daniela Filippin)

My toothpaste, toothbrush, shavers and shaving foam. The clothes I'm wearing, the cough medicine I'm using to get rid of a persistent cough, the cigarettes I bought for Ahmed, and some tobacco for my arghile. My cell phone, the laptop onto which I compulsively type my eye-witness accounts from the hell surrounding me. All that's needed for a modest, yet dignified existence in Gaza comes from Egypt, and arrives on the stops' shelves through the tunnels. These are the very same tunnels that the Israeli F16s haven't stopped heavily bombing in the last 12 hours, destroying along with them thousands of Rafah houses near the border.

A few months ago I had three teeth dodgy fixed, and at the end of the operation I asked my Palestinian dentist where he'd gotten all of his dental equipment from - the anesthetic, the syringes, ceramic inlays and all the other tools. With a sly look on his face, he'd made a certain gesture with his hands: from under ground. There's no doubt that through the tunnels underneath Rafah, explosives and weapons were also smuggled, the very same that the resistance is using today to try and contain the terrifying advance of the armour-plated Israeli death-machines. But it's next to nothing compared with the tons of consumer goods flowing into famished Gaza under this criminal siege.

It's easy enough on the internet to find photos documenting how even livestock comes in from Egypt through the tunnels. Sedated, strapped-up goats and cows are lowered into an Egyptian well, re-emerging on this side to provide milk, cheese and meat. Even the main hospitals in the Strip stocked up surreptitiously at the border. The tunnels were the only resource allowing the Palestinians to survive the siege, a siege which long before the current bombings, was the cause of a 60% unemployment rate and forced 80% of families to live off humanitarian handouts.

Our colleagues at the ISM in Rafah describe the umpteenth siege that they witnessed. Caravans of desperate refugees leaving their homes facing Egypt, on mule-drawn carts or hodgepodge vehicles. A déjà-vu scenario - in previous days, leaflets were raining down from the planes intimating the Palestinians into evacuating. Since Israel always keeps its threatened promises, bombs are raining down from the planes now. Today's new homeless will spend the night with their relatives, friends and acquaintances in Gaza. No one dares crowd the Uited Nations schools anymore, after yesterday's massacre in Jabalia. But a considerable number haven't gone anywhere, as they have nowhere safe to go. They shall be spending the night praying to God that they'll be spared, since no one on earth seems to take any interest in their existence.

The death toll at present is at 768 Palestinians, with 3,129 wounded, and 219 children killed. The count of civilian victims on the Israeli side is thankfully still only at 4. At Zaytoun, an Eastern neighbourhood of Gaza City, the Red Cross ambulances could only rush to the scene of a massacre after several hours, under the coordination of the Israeli military summit. When they finally got there, they picked up 17 corpses and 10 injured, all belonging to the Al Samouni family. A perfect execution: in the tiny bodies of the children it was possible to notice bullet holes rather than wounds caused by shrapnel.

The last two nights in the Gaza City hospitals were quieter than usual, as we assisted a number of injured in the tens rather than the hundreds. Obviously after the massacre at the Al Fakhura school, the Israeli Army surpassed the daily budget of civilian casualties as an offering to its blood-thirsty government in view of the imminent elections. We have an inkling that tonight the morgues will once again be filled to bursting point.

With our sirens screaming, we continue to rush pregnant women into hospital as they give birth prematurely. It's as if nature and the conservation instinct were inducing these brave mothers to predate the arrival of these new lives to make up for the growing number of dead. These newborns' first cry, when they survive, can for a moment cover the rumbling of the bombs.

Leila, a colleague at the ISM, asked our neighbours' children to write some of their impressions on the atrocious tragedy we're enduring. Here are some extracts of their words, the horrors of war seen through the pure and innocent gaze of Gaza's children:

Suzanne, aged 15: "The life in Gaza is very difficult. Actually we can't describe everything. We can't sleep, we can't go to school and study. We feel a lot of feelings, sometimes we feel afraid and worry because the planes and the ships, they hit 24 hours. Sometimes we feel bored because there is no electricity during the day, and in the night, it is coming just four hours and when it comes we are watching the news on TV. And we see kids and women who are injured and dead. So we live in the siege and war."

From Fatma, 13: "It was the hardest week in our life. In the first day we were in school, having the final exam of the first term, then the explosions started, many students were killed and injured, and the others surely lost a relative or a neighbour. There is no electricity, no food, no bread. What can we do - it's the Israelis! All the people in the world celebrated the new year, we also celebrate but in a different way."

From Sara, 11: "Gaza is living in a siege, like a big jail: no water, no electric power. People feel afraid, don't sleep at night, and every day more people are killed. Until now, more than 400 are killed and more than 2000 injured. And students had their final first term exams, so Israel hit the Ministry of Education, and a lot of ministries. Every day people are asking when will it end, and they are waiting for more ships with activist like Vittorio and Leila."

Darween, 8: "I am a Palestinian kid,
I won't leave my country
so I will have lots of advantages
because I won't leave my country
and I hear a sound of rockets
so I won't leave my country."

Meriam is four. Her siblings asked her, "what do you feel when you hear the rockets?" And she said, "I feel afraid!", before running to take cover behind her father's legs.

Gaza is sadly shrouded in obscurity in the last ten days. I can recharge my computer and phone only in the hospitals. We watch TV with the doctors and paramedics while waiting for an urgent call. We listen to the rumblings in the distance, and after a few minutes the Arab satellite networks refer exactly where the explosions take place. We often watch ourselves pull bodies out of the rubble, as if having seen it all in the flesh weren't enough already. Last night I switched over to an Israeli channel with the remote. They were showing a traditional music festival, complete with scantily-clad showgirls and firework displays in the end. We went back to our horror, not on screen but in the ambulances. Israel has every right to laugh and sing even while they're massacring their neighbours. Palestinians only ask to die a different kind of death - say, of old age.

Stay human


Inside Gaza
By Ewa Jasiewicz; source:
FreeGaza.org, Jannuary 7, 2009

WHEN I got there, the gates of Beit Hanoun hospital were shut, with teenage men hanging off them.  The mass of people striving to get inside was a sign that there had been an attack.  Inside the gates, the hospital was full.  Parents, wives, cousins, emotionally frayed and overwhelmed, were leaning over injured loved ones.

The Israeli Apache helicopter had attacked at 3.15pm.  Witnesses said that two missiles had been fired into the street in Hay al Amel, east Beit Hanoun, close to the border with Israel.  With rumours of an imminent invasion this empty scrubland is rapidly becoming a no-man's land which people cross quickly, fearing attack by Israeli jets.

But the narrow, busy streets of the Boura area rarely escape the intensifying airstrikes.

Eyewitnesses said children had been playing and waiting in the streets there for their parents to finish praying at the nearby mosque.  "We could see it so clearly, it was so close, we looked up and everyone ran.  Those that couldn't were soon flat on the ground," said Khalil Abu Naseer, who was lucky to have escaped the incoming missile.

"Look at this, take it," insisted men in the street, handing me pieces of the missile the size of a fist, all with jagged edges.

"All the windows were blown out, our doors were blown in, there was glass everywhere," explained a neighbour.  It was these lumps of missile, rock and flying glass that smashed into the legs, arms, stomachs, heads and backs of 16 people, two of them children, who had been brought to Beit Hanoun Hospital on Thursday afternoon.

Fadi Chabat, 24, was working in his shop, a small tin shack that was a community hub selling sweets, cigarettes and chewing gum.  When the missile exploded, he suffered multiple injuries.  He died on Friday morning in Kamal Adwahn Hospital in Jabaliya.  As women attended the grieving room at Fadi Chabat's home yesterday to pay their respects, Israeli F16 fighter jets tore through the skies overhead and blasted four more bombs into the empty areas on the border.  Two elderly women in traditional embroidered red and black dresses carrying small black plastic shopping bags moved as quickly as they could; others disappeared behind the walls of their homes, into courtyards and off the streets.

At Fadi's house the grief was still fresh.  Nearly all the women were crying, a collective outpouring of grief and raw pain with free-flowing tears.

"He prayed five times a day, he was a good Muslim, he wasn't part of any group, not Fatah, not Hamas, not one, none of them, he was a good student, and he was different," said one of his sisters.  She took me to see Fadi's younger brother, who had been wounded in the same air strike.  Omar, eight,was sitting on his own in a darkened bedroom on a foam mattress with gauze on his back covering his wounds.

"He witnessed everything, he saw it all," the sisters explained.  "He kept saying, I saw the missile, I saw it, Fadi's been hit by a missile'."

The memory sets Omar off into more tears, his sisters, mother and aunts breaking down along with him.  Nine-year-old Ismaeel, who had been on the street with his sisters Leema, four, and Haya, 12, had been taking out rubbish when they were struck by the missiles.

Ismaeel had been brought into the hospital still breathing and doctors atfirst though he would pull through, but in the end he died of internal injuries.

Within the past six days in Beit Hanoun alone, according to hospital records seven people have been killed, among them three children and amother of ten other youngsters.  Another 75 people have been injured, including 29 children and 17 women.

As well as the fatalities and wounded, hundreds of homes have had their windows blown out and been damaged by flying debris and shrapnel.  Two homes have been totally destroyed.  Nearby the premises of two organisations have been reduced to rubble.  One of them, the Sons of the City Charity, associated with Hamas, was blasted with two Apache-fired missiles, gutting a neighbouring apartment in the process and breaking windows at Beit Hanoun Hospital.  The Cultural Development Association and the offices of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, were leveled by bombs dropped from F16 jets.

It is hard to imagine what the Israeli pilots of these aircraft see from so far up in the sky.  Do they see people walking; standing around and talking in the street; kids with sticks chasing each other in play?  Or are the figures digitised, micro-people, perhaps just blips on a screen?

Whatever is seen from the air, the victims are often ordinary people.  Last Thursday night saw volunteers from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society in Beit Hanoun take to the streets in an effort to save lives.  Like all emergency medical staff in Gaza, they risk death working in the maelstrom of every Israeli invasion, during curfews and night fighting.

In one of the ambulances during an evening of total darkness caused by nightly power cuts, I meet Yusri, a veteran of more than 14 years of Israeli incursions into the Beit Hanoun district of Gaza.  Moustachioed, energetic, and gregarious, Yusri is in his 40s and a local hero.  Seen by people within the community as a man who rarely sleeps, he is a front-line paramedic who zooms through Gaza's streets to reach casualties, ambulance horn blaring as he shouts through a loudhailer for onlookers and the dazed to get out of the way.

"Where's the strike?"  Yusri asks locals, as we pick our way through a gutted charred charity office and the house of the Tarahan family.  Their home, on the buffer zone, has been reduced to a concrete sandwich.  There are six casualties, but miraculously none of them are serious.

Beit Hanoun Hospital is a simple, 48-bed local facility with no intensive care unit, decrepit metal stretchers and rickety beds.  I drink tea in a simple office with a garrulous crowd of ear, nose and throat specialists, surgeons and paediatricians.  The talk is all about politics: how the planfor Gaza is to merge it with Egypt; how Israel doesn't want to liquidate Hamas as it serves their goal of a divided Palestine to have a weak Hamas alienated from the West Bank.

The chat is interrupted by lulls of intent listening as news crackles through on Sawt Al Shab ("The Voice of the People"), Gaza's grassroots news station.  Almost everyone here is tuned in.  It is listened to by taxi drivers, families in their homes huddled around wood stoves or under blankets and groups of men on street corners crouched beside transistor radio sets.

It feeds live news on the latest resistance attacks, interspersed with political speeches from various leaders, and fighter music - throaty, deep male voices united in buoyant battle songs about standing up, reclaiming al-Quds (Jerusalem) avenging fresh martyrs, and staying steadfast.

News is fed through on operations by armed wings of every political group active in Gaza; the Qasam (Hamas), the Abu Ali Mustapha Martyrs Brigade (PFLP), the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (which is affiliated with Fatah) and Saraya al-Quds (Islamic Jihad).  One thing is widely recognised - the attack on Gaza has brought all armed resistance groups together.  However, everybody adds wryly that "once this is all over, they'll all break apart again".

One of the surgeons asks me about whether I'm scared, and whether I really think I have protection as a foreigner here.  I talk in detail about Israel's responsibility to protect emergency services; to cease fire; to facilitate movement;, to respect the Geneva Conventions, including protection of civilians and injured combatants.  The surgeon talking to me is an intelligent man, highly respected in the community, in his late 40s.He takes his time, explaining to me in detail that all the evidence from everything Gazans have experienced points to Israel operating above the law - that there is no protection, that these laws, these conventions, do not seem to apply to Israel, nor does it abide by them, and that I should be afraid, very afraid, because Gazans are afraid

He recounts a story from the November 2006 invasion which saw more than 60people killed, one entire family in one day alone.  About 100 tanks invaded Beit Hanoun, with one blocking each entrance for six days.  He remembers how the Red Cross brought water and food and took away the refuse.  All coordination was cut off with the Palestinian Authority.  The same will happen this time, he insists.  He remembers too how one ambulance driver, Yusri, a maverick, a hero, loved by all the staff and community, faced down the tanks to evacuate the injured.  Yusri, the surgeon says, just drove up to the tank and started shouting through his loudhailer, telling them to move for the love of God because we had a casualty, then just swerved round them and made off.

Yusri has carried the injured and dead in every invasion in the past 14years.  He shows me a leg injury sustained when a tank rammed into his ambulance.  The event was caught on camera by journalists, and a case brought against the Israel Occupation Forces, but they ruled the army had acted appropriately in self defence.

"Look in the back of the ambulance here, how many people do you think can fit in here?  I was carrying 10 corpses at a time after the invasion, there was a man cut in two here in the back, it was horrific.  But you carry on.  I want to serve my country," he says.

During a prolonged power cut in that six-day invasion there was no electricity to power a ventilator, and doctors took turns hand pumping oxygen to keep one casualty alive for four hours before they could be transferred.  Roads were bulldozed, ambulances were banned from moving, dead people lay in their homes for days, and when permission was finally given for the corpses' collection, medics had to carry them on stretchers along the main street.

Today in Gaza everyone is terrified that such events are now repeating themselves, only worse.  Gazans now feel collectively abandoned.  The past week's massacres, indiscriminate attacks and overflowing hospitals, and the fact that anyone can be hit at any time in any place, has left people utterly terrorised.  No-one dares think of what might become of them in these difficult and unpredictable days.  As they say in Gaza, "Bein Allah"- "It's up to God."

-----Ewa Jasiewicz is a journalist and activist.  She is currently the coordinator for the Free Gaza movement and one of the only international journalists on the ground in Gaza. 

... Payvand News - 03/25/16 ... --



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