News Comment

Tuesday 23 September 2014

They just want to go home. But most have nowhere left to go to after the onslaught

Shona Murray

Published 04/08/2014 | 02:30

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A Palestinian medic carries the dead body of an infant who was evacuated from under the rubble of a house, which witnesses said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike that killed at least nine members from the al-Ghol family, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip August 3, 2014. Renewed Israeli shelling killed at least 30 people in Gaza on Sunday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to keep up pressure on Hamas even after the army completes its core mission of destroying a tunnel network that extends into Israel. Shelling exchanges continued on Sunday, pushing the Gaza death toll given by Palestinian officials to 1,708, most of them civilians. Israel has confirmed that 64 soldiers have died in combat, while Palestinian shelling has also killed three civilians in Israel. Israel began its air and naval offensive against Gaza on July 8 following a surge of cross-border rocket salvoes by Hamas and other guerrillas, later escalating into ground incursions. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
A Palestinian medic carries the dead body of an infant who was evacuated from under the rubble of a house, which witnesses said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike that killed at least nine members from the al-Ghol family, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Reuters
A Palestinian carries a wounded boy following what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike at a United Nations-run school, where displaced Palestinians are taking refuge, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip August 3, 2014. An Israeli air strike killed at least 10 people and wounded about 30 others on Sunday in a U.N.-run school in the southern Gaza Strip, a Palestinian official said, as dozens died in Israeli shelling of the enclave and Hamas fired rockets at Israel. The Israeli military said it was looking into the reported attack, the second to hit a school in less than a week.  REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
A Palestinian carries a wounded boy following what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike at a United Nations-run school, where displaced Palestinians are taking refuge, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Reuters
Relatives of Palestinians from the al-Ghol family, whom medics said were killed in an Israeli air strike on a house, mourn during their funeral in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip August 3, 2014. Renewed Israeli shelling killed at least 30 people in Gaza on Sunday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to keep up pressure on Hamas even after the army completes its core mission of destroying a tunnel network that extends into Israel. Shelling exchanges continued on Sunday, pushing the Gaza death toll given by Palestinian officials to 1,708, most of them civilians. Israel has confirmed that 64 soldiers have died in combat, while Palestinian shelling has also killed three civilians in Israel. Israel began its air and naval offensive against Gaza on July 8 following a surge of cross-border rocket salvoes by Hamas and other guerrillas, later escalating into ground incursions. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa (GAZA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST MILITARY CONFLICT)

"Am I scared? No. I just want to go home."

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Nine-year-old Dahlia, from Al Zaiton near Shejaiya, doesn't know what happened. But she woke up in hospital, burned from head to toe.

"They attacked a Mosque near our house," she recalled yesterday. "Every day I was playing with my father and my sister until early in the night. My sister then didn't want to go to bed, to sleep, because she was scared, but I wanted to sleep.

"I don't remember what happened, but I found myself here at the hospital."

Dahlia is now one of nearly half-a-million people displaced in Gaza, as Operation Protective Edge barrels into its fourth week.

Shelling and crossfire continued for four hours straight in the north of Gaza at the border with Israel yesterday, including artillery shelling from Israeli ground troops - amid an announcement by the IDF that the ground incursion there was all but complete.

Meanwhile, in Rafah, at Gaza's border with Egypt, 10 people were killed in a UN school, now home to over 1,200 Palestinians seeking safety and shelter.

Doctor Abdul Latif Alhaj, General Director of the ministry of health in Gaza, says he has one word to describe the operation: "barbaric".

"I use the word barbaric because for years, nobody has attacked civilians like this - people are sleeping and suddenly their home is destroyed all over their bodies," he said.

"In the last few days of this barbarian war in the Gaza Strip, we are seeing strange sorts of injuries that might be due to different weapons.

"Unfortunately, we don't have the specialised laboratories or staff to diagnose the weapons or the injuries.

Wounds

"The wounds coming in to us are immediate amputation of limbs. There are multiple small inlets- a lot of destruction inside the body. I think, and according to other doctors' testimonies, these injuries are different - multiple amputations, burns, amputation of the head."

At Al Shifa hospital, the largest in Gaza, civilians have filled the wards and corridors, and are now setting up home on the hospital grounds - a disaster for doctors and staff both in terms of coordinating emergencies and managing hygiene.

"The situation is complicated and critical here; the ICU unit if full," said Dr Alhaj. "There is a lot of tension among medical staff.

"There are lots of civilians living inside the hospital, in the gardens. They make tents, bring blankets; their own houses have been destroyed.

"We tell them to go to the UN schools for safety, but at least four schools have been destroyed so they don't feel safe.

"We can't ask the police to remove them. They are making matters much worse, they are using more water, bringing food and using waste products - the hygiene situation is getting worse. Every day we're trying to find a solution for this but actually there is no proper solution except forcing them to leave, and that won't be acceptable.

"The Israelis should stop attacking civilians. There is no reason to attack civilians. The militants are operating on the border, they are in clashes with the Israeli tanks and even airplanes."

He questioned why they are attacking people in their houses.

"They just want people in civil society here in Gaza to be in conflict with the militants.

"But whose militants are they - the sons and brothers of those people - they're not imported from outside."

A delegation from Hamas is in Cairo for talks with Israel, managed by Egyptian officials. Israel said on Saturday that it would not send a delegation to Cairo and that it intends to act unilaterally until "quiet is restored" for Israeli citizens.

"We are waiting to hear from Cairo - we would like to end the miserable situation in Gaza that has been going on for many years," said Dr Alhaj. "People just want to live a free life.

"The aims of the war, the aggression, the aims of the resistance here ... the politicians ... is not to liberate Palestine now. They just want to end the siege."

At a Hamas press conference outside Al Shifa, Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zohri said: "Ban Ki-moon gave legitimacy to Israel to kill Palestinians.

"Hamas yesterday committed to the truce and Israel did not. The war proved a lie of Israel and the sincerity of Hamas."

However last night Mr Ban, the UN Secretary-General, condemned an attack that killed 10 people yesterday at a UN school in the Gaza Strip as "a moral outrage and a criminal act".

In his most strongly-worded statement yet on an attack against a UN facility in Gaza, he called it "yet another gross violation of international humanitarian law, which clearly requires protection by both parties of Palestinian civilians, UN staff and UN premises, among other civilian facilities."

Meanwhile Dr Alhaj said that a number of Palestinians with serious casualties are being referred to Israeli hospitals in Jerusalem, Jordan, through Erez crossing (Israel) and to Egypt through Rafah.

"The injured victims are waiting for five days, some hospitals will only take women and children. We need more advanced services and to evacuate beds. There are obstacles - and we need safe passages."

Irish Independent

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