Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.


Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Have Mercy (Mr. Obama, do you have a heart? A letter from Dr. Mads Gilbert, a physician working in Gaza)

.


Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor who is volunteering at Shifa Hospital in Gaza, treats a Palestinian girl at the emergency room
: photo via The Independent, 21 July 2014



Mr. Obama -– do you have a heart?
A letter from Dr. Mads Gilbert, a physician working in Gaza

Dearest friends --

Last night was extreme. The “ground invasion” of Gaza resulted in scores and carloads with bodies maimed, torn apart, bleeding, shivering, dying -- all sorts of injured Palestinians, all ages, all civilians, all innocent.

The heroes in the ambulances and in all of Gaza’s hospitals are working 12-24 hrs shifts, grey from fatigue and inhuman workloads (without payment at all in Shifa for the last 4 months), they care, triage, try to understand the incomprehensible chaos of bodies, sizes, limbs, walking, not walking, breathing, not breathing, bleeding, not bleeding humans. HUMANS!

Now, once more treated like animals by “the most moral army in the world” (sic!).

My respect for the wounded is endless, in their contained determination in the midst of pain, agony and shock; my admiration for the staff and volunteers is endless, my closeness to the Palestinian “sumud” gives me strength, although in glimpses I just want to scream, hold someone tight, cry, smell the skin and hair of the warm child, covered in blood, protect ourselves in an endless embrace –- but we cannot afford that, nor can they.

Ashy grey faces -- Oh NO! not one more load of tens of maimed and bleeding, we still have lakes of blood on the floor in the ER, piles of dripping, blood-soaked bandages to clear out -– oh -– the cleaners, everywhere, swiftly shovelling the blood and discarded tissues, hair, clothes, cannulas –- the leftovers from death –- all taken away… to be prepared again, to be repeated all over. More then 100 cases came to Shifa last 24 hrs., enough for a large well trained hospital with everything, but here -– almost nothing: electricity, water, disposables, drugs, OR-tables, instruments, monitors -– all rusted and as if taken from museums of yesterday's hospitals. But they do not complain, these heroes. They get on with it, like warriors, head on, enormously resolute.


And as I write these words to you, alone, on a bed, my tears flow, the warm but useless tears of pain and grief, of anger and fear. This is not happening!




Dr Mads Gilbert with a patient at Shifa Hospital in Gaza
: photo via DesertPeace, 21 July 2014

And then, just now, the orchestra of the Israeli war-machine starts its gruesome symphony again, just now: salvos of artillery from the navy boats just down on the shores, the roaring F16s, the sickening drones (Arabic ‘Zennanis’, the hummers), and the cluttering Apaches. So much of it made in and paid for by US.

Mr. Obama -– do you have a heart?

I invite you –- spend one night -– just one night –- with us in Shifa. Disguised as a cleaner, maybe.

I am convinced, 100%, it would change history.

Nobody with a heart AND power could ever walk away from a night in Shifa without being determined to end the slaughter of the Palestinian people.

But the heartless and merciless have done their calculations and planned another “dahyia” onslaught on Gaza.

The rivers of blood will keep running the coming night. I can hear they have tuned their instruments of death.

Please. Do what you can. This, THIS cannot continue. MadsGaza, Occupied Palestine


Mads Gilbert MD PhD
Professor and Clinical Head
Clinic of Emergency Medicine
University Hospital of North Norway



A medic with the Palestine Red Crescent Society carries an injured child to a hospital in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah following an Israeli air strike before a five-hour ceasefire went into effect on 17 July. Four children were killed when Israel resumed its heavy bombardment of the occupied Gaza Strip after the expiry on Thursday afternoon of a five-hour "humanitarian ceasefire" requested by the United Nations: photo by Eyad Al Baba / APA Images, 17 July 2014

news_article_7061_12866_1405957236

Palestinian refugee at UNRWA school in Gaza: photo via UNRWA, 21 July 2014

 
UNRWA Gaza situation report, 21 July 2014

 The following situation report was issued by UNRWA today.

GAZA SITUATION REPORT (ISSUE NO. 13)
21 July 2014 | Issue No. 13
On 7 July, in response to escalating violence between Israel and Hamas, UNRWA declared an emergency in all five areas of the Gaza Strip. The number of displaced people has since gone beyond the peak number from the 2008/9 conflict, and exceeds 84,000 in 67 schools. UNRWA has launched an emergency flash appeal for US$ 60 million to respond to the urgent and pressing humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza, including the thousands who have already fled their homes to seek safety in UNRWA facilities.

GENERAL
Past 24 hours: The past 24 hours marked the deadliest period since the current escalations of violence began, with 107 Palestinians killed, including 23 women and 35 children. Tragically, the total number of children killed in the current conflict has now passed 100 and represents almost one quarter of all Palestinian fatalities. 13 Israeli soldiers were reportedly killed in this 24- hour period.
The densely populated Shejayeh area, in the Eastern part of Gaza City suffered the most extreme levels of violence during this period, with at least 72 Palestinians killed (38 men, 13 women and 21 children) in a major escalation of the IDF ground offensive. A brief humanitarian pause to evacuate the wounded and dead was only partially implemented, with rescuers reportedly unable to access some areas of Shejayeh to provide assistance. Scenes at Shifa Hospital following the escalation in Shejayeh have been widely reported, with hospital staff overwhelmed with mass casualties.
An expanded IDF ground offensive has resulted in an exponential increase in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs); it is estimated that up to half of Shejayeh’s residents fled their homes in reported scenes of panic during this period. The number of displaced Palestinians in UNRWA shelters across the Gaza Strip climbed sharply from 63,000 on 20 July to 84,843 on 21 July. This sharp increase has presented significant challenges to UNRWA operations, with shelters overwhelmed with huge numbers of displaced.
The scope of displacement is expected to further increase, with a ground offensive in place in six areas of the Gaza Strip. In Beit Hanoun the ground offensive now reaches to 1000 meters inside Gazan territory. In Middle Area, leaflets were dropped by the IDF in Maghazi Camp overnight requesting residents to leave their homes, and raising concerns of a possible expansion of the ground offensive in that area.
The continuing conflict is having an impact on delivery of basic services. Despite strong commitment from UNRWA sanitation staff, the Agency is struggling to maintain solid waste management operations in the context of ongoing escalations in violence and high numbers of IDPs in shelters. This presents a potential serious public health risk.
The ongoing conflict also presents a major concern regarding the risk of Unexploded Ordnance (UXO), especially to children. UNRWA is providing basic UXO awareness in shelters and will delivering a more comprehensive awareness program once current hostilities cease.
“Gaza is an open wound”. This is how, speaking from Doha on 20 July, UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon described the current situation in Gaza. The Secretary- General condemned the killings of civilians, including children in Shejayeh as an “atrocious action” and called for an immediate end to the violence, stating that “too many innocent civilians are dying”. The Secretary- General’s statement was made during a late- night session of the UN Security Council, at which members reportedly expressed serious concern at rising casualty numbers and called for respect of international humanitarian law to be upheld. International pressure for an end to the conflict is continuing; with US Secretary of State John Kerry expected in Egypt discuss the crisis.
UNRWA RESPONSE
  • UNRWA is now providing shelter to more than 84,843 beneficiaries all five areas of the Gaza Strip. There are currently 67 designated emergency shelters, with more expected to open throughout the day. The priority continues to be the provision of food, water, sleeping and cleaning items.
  • Over the past 24 hours, food and water rations were distributed to shelters. This includes 233 family hygiene kits, 168 baby hygiene kits, 6940 mattresses, 3191 blankets, 54,489 tins of tuna, and 16,512 50- piece packets of bread.
  • Regular sanitation operations continue, with more than half of sanitation staff reporting for work, removing 136 tones of solid waste.
  • Regular UNRWA operations are affected but continue as security permits. 15 of 21 health clinics remain operational, and regular UNRWA services are available. 4549 people visited UNRWA health clinics yesterday, including more than 300 children who had regular check-ups and/or immunizations. There were 174 visits to the dentist at UNRWA health clinics and 33 people had appointments with psychosocial counselors.
SUMMARY OF MAJOR INCIDENTS
Reportedly, there were 101 rockets and 37 mortar shells fired towards Israel. IAF conducted 131 raids firing 182 missiles. Israeli navy fired 146 shells; and 721 tank shells were fired. 66 houses were bombarded.
UNRWA INSTALLATIONS
A total of 75 UNRWA installations have been damaged since 1 June, 2014.
In the past 24 hours, three UNRWA installations were damaged – one school in Bureij, a school in Nuseirat and the Microfinance Office in Middle Area.
FUNDING NEEDS
UNRWA has launched an emergency flash appeal for US$ 60 million to respond to the urgent and pressing humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza, including the thousands who have already fled their homes to seek safety in UNRWA facilities. New funding will enable UNRWA to respond to the immediate shelter, food, health and psychosocial needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs), while replenishing emergency supplies and preparing for vital interventions necessary after a cessation of military activities. The emergency response phase is expected to last for one month, and the early recovery a further three to six months.
Based on the escalating number of IDPs and further destruction of shelters, a revised appeal will be released shortly.
CROSSINGS
  • Rafah crossing was open for foreign passport holders and wounded Palestinians.
  • Erez was open only for foreigners and humanitarian medical cases.
  • Kerem Shalom crossing was open for food and fuel.
Since this report was written, the situation has continued to deteriorate. According to UNRWA spokesperson Gunness:

Today saw a massive wave of human displacement in Gaza with around 20,000 displaced: 20k personal tragedies, 20 tales of dignity denied RT -- Chris Gunness (@ChrisGunness) 21 July 2014




Death toll rises in Gaza

Palestinians who fled their houses following an Israeli ground offensive take shelter at a UNRWA school in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, July 19, 2014: photo by Eyad Al Baba / APA Images, 19 July 2014

The Devastation


 1 of the at least 24 members of the Abu Jamaa family killed in an airstrike last night. Still in diapers. Photo via @kristenchick

One of the at least 24 members of the Abu Jamaa family killed in an airstrike last night. Still in diapers:photo via @kristenchick / DesertPeace, 21 July 2014

Photo via @MohannadArawi: Another terrorist killed by Israeli army in #Gaza

Another terrorist killed by Israeli army in Gaza: photo via MohannadArawi / DesertPeace, 21 July 2014

Horrible killing in #Gaza. Gazan corpses lied everywhere = Photo via @m_househ

Horrible killing in Gaza. Gazan corpses lying everywhere: photo via @m_househ / DesertPeace, 21 July 2014

At least 24 members of the Abu Jamaa family were killed in an F-16 strike on their home in Khan Yunis last night - via @sharifkouddous

At least 24 members of the Abu Jamaa family were killed in an F-16 strike on their home in Khan Yunis last night: photo via sharifkouddous / DesertPeace, 21 July 2014
2e59d4fa1e9cd54dae948a6e84a3b8a3
The devastation, Gaza City: photo by PalToday via DesertPeace, 21 July 2014

8465832306eb3ceaaa364bc15fb9b208
The devastation, Gaza City: photo by PalToday via DesertPeace, 21 July 2014

67a9666567b10f22b2e5be9c66663e95
The devastation, Gaza City: photo by PalToday via DesertPeace, 21 July 2014

d18b01c8590eaf11143b1399756be361
The devastation, Gaza City: photo by PalToday via DesertPeace, 21 July 2014
e7a3ded4a18e8619b73c96e3156d8ded
The devastation, Gaza City: photo by PalToday via DesertPeace, 21 July 2014
7ce1bfaa99d73b1f4190655fd9ba6934
The devastation, Gaza City: photo by PalToday via DesertPeace, 21 July 2014
fc0b543379aad37c35d4aa07502ae6ad
The devastation, Gaza City: photo by PalToday via DesertPeace, 21 July 2014
4d0f0f122d093785d6fa110c4bf16e1e
Remains of the bodies after attacks on residential buildings. Bodies shredded to pieces: photo by PalToday via DesertPeace, 21 July 2014
05ad1d89ffa1c77b37c783d3a307c2a5
Remains of the bodies after attacks on residential buildings. Bodies shredded to pieces: photo by PalToday via DesertPeace, 21 July 2014
96fd65a71e9c7010de26ef3f9d83d4c3
Remains of the bodies after attacks on residential buildings. Bodies shredded to pieces: photo by PalToday via DesertPeace, 21 July 2014
22a520b667a14a6fa25aabf9d22dd85e
Remains of the bodies after attacks on residential buildings. Bodies shredded to pieces: photo by PalToday via DesertPeace, 21 July 2014
024338a2fe38def9f3efb35441555131
Remains of the bodies after attacks on residential buildings. Bodies shredded to pieces: photo by PalToday via DesertPeace, 21 July 2014

Palestinian Beisan Dhahir, 7, sleeps at Shifa hospital in Gaza City, late Sunday, July 20, 2014. Beisan's home was shelled and collapsed by Israel¿s military...

Palestinian Beisan Dhahir, 7, sleeps at Shifa hospital in Gaza City, late Sunday, July 20, 2014. Beisan's home was shelled and collapsed by Israel's military operation in Shijaiyah in the Gaza Strip. She survived the ordeal with her aunt and uncle. Beisan's mother, father, brother, sister and baby sister all died in the attack. According to a family relative, the house came crashing down around 11:00 am local time. During a temporary ceasefire, an Associated Press team accompanied Palestinian Red Cross volunteers who managed to speak to the aunt who was trapped under the rubble of her home pleading for help for her husband and Beisan. By 6pm local time the volunteers were able to free the young girl and her aunt and uncle from the rubble, leaving behind the rest of her family: photo by Lefteris Pitarakis / AP, 20 July 2014


Palestinian Beisan Dhahir, 7, sleeps at Shifa hospital in Gaza City, late Sunday, July 20, 2014. Beisan's home was shelled and collapsed by Israel¿s military...

Palestinian Beisan Dhahir, 7, sleeps at Shifa hospital in Gaza City, late Sunday, July 20, 2014: photo by Lefteris Pitarakis / AP, 20 July 2014
 
The Associated Press

Palestinians search for survivors under the rubble of a house was destroyed by an Israeli missile strike, in Gaza City, Monday, July 21, 2014. On Sunday, the first major ground battle in two weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting exacted a steep price, killing scores of Palestinians and over a dozen Israeli soldiers and forcing thousands of terrified Palestinian civilians to flee their devastated Shijaiyah neighborhood, which Israel says is a major source for rocket fire against its civilians: photo by Khalil Hamra / AP, 21 July 2014)



Smoke rose as Israeli tanks shelled the eastern Gaza City neighborhood of Shejaiya. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner of the Israeli military said that 10 Hamas fighters were killed Monday in Shejaiya, and that six underground tunnels had been “completely demolished” across Gaza in the past 24 hours: photo by Mohammed Saber / European Pressphoto Agency, 21 July 2014



Palestinian men buried the bodies of members of the Abu Jamei family, who were killed in an Israeli airstrike in the southern town of Khan Younis in Gaza on Monday. At the family’s home, people searching beneath the rubble left by an overnight attack on Monday counted 26 bodies, by far the most victims of a single strike in this offensive: photo by Sergey Ponomarev / The New York Times. 21 July 2014



A wounded boy arrived at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. On the fifth day of the Israeli ground operation in Gaza, similarly chaotic scenes were repeated at overwhelmed hospitals across the strip, where medical supplies were already depleted and staff exhausted after 14 days of heavy aerial bombing now intensified by ground battles: photo by Tyler Hicks / The New York Times, 21 July 2014



People looked for bodies amid the debris of a destroyed house in Gaza City. As diplomatic pressure for a cease-fire mounted on the conflict’s 14th day, the Palestinian death toll topped 500 and the number of Israeli soldiers killed hit 25, more than twice as many as in Israel’s last Gaza ground operation in 2009. Two Israeli civilians have also died from rocket and mortar fire: photo by Wissam Nassar / The New York Times, 21 July 2014



Israeli soldiers fired 155-millimeter artillery rounds toward Gaza: photo by Menahem Kahana / Agence France-Presse, 21July 2014



An Israeli soldier monitored the area as smoke rose from Gaza near the Israeli border. Rocket fire from Gaza slowed somewhat from earlier days, but more than a dozen sirens sounded around midday. One rocket hit a home in Sderot, near Gaza, while the occupants cowered in a safe room, and another landed in an open field near Tel Aviv. photo by Abir Sultan / European Pressphoto Agency, 21 July 2014

"Kill them; kill them all; kill their children; kill their children's children; only when nothing more than a fading memory remains of them shall the blood of our land be clean." 
-- a stand-up comedian

Monday, 21 July 2014

killing us while we are sleeping

.

A Palestinian boy, who medics said was wounded by Israeli shelling, receives treatment at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City July 20, 2014. At least 20 Palestinians were killed on Sunday by Israeli shelling in a Gaza neighbourhood, where bodies were strewn in the street and thousands fled toward the hospital packed with wounded, witnesses and health officials said. The mass casualties in the Shejaia district in northeast Gaza appeared to be the heaviest since Israel launched its offensive on the Palestinian territory on July 8 after cross-border rocket strikes by militants intensified. Militants kept up their rocket fire on Israel, with no sign of a diplomatic breakthrough toward a ceasefire in sight. Photo by Ali Jadallah

A Palestinian boy, who medics said was wounded by Israeli shelling, receives treatment at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City July 20, 2014
: photo by Ali Jadallah via Egyptian Streets, 20 July 2014

And the watchman said: Captain, what of the night?
And the Captain said, watchman, what of the night?


Overnight and into the morning, Israel committed another massacre in Gaza. Ambulances are blocked from reaching the effected areas so we still don’t know the full extent of the damage. Ma’an News Agency reports:
 
"At least 40 people have been killed and hundreds have been injured in the eastern neighborhood, medics said Sunday. The death toll is expected to rise as more bodies are uncovered."
 
As we write, the reports on the number of people killed increased to 60. Who knows how many by the time you read this message?

Here is an account from Dr. Mona El-Farra in Gaza City written in the early hours of the morning:

Israeli tanks, airforce are bombing continuously. They are targeting Al-Shajaiya neighborhood [eastern part of Gaza City]. The airforce is flying planes very low and they are shelling houses. They are shelling everywhere, hitting many houses. People are dying. 

The Israeli occupation dehumanizes us by killing us while we are sleeping.
 
The ambulances are trying to reach the dead and injured and transfer them to hospitals but many ambulances couldn't make it.
 
Tens of wounded people, old and young, are stranded. The ambulances can't reach them to help them. Tens of bodies in the street or buried in the rubble. My friend Hani is a father in Al-Shajaiya and his wife is pregnant. He called me and told me that it's not possible for the ambulance to reach them. He is scared that they will die there before the ambulance reaches his family because there is bombing everywhere.
 
The number of people killed is increasing every minute because medical teams can't reach the area and people are bleeding. 
 
People are running, terrified in the streets.
 
Many families, many children are leaving the Al-Shajaiya neighborhood coming to Gaza's city center. Women, men, children walking and running. I can see a woman carrying her baby and terrified children around her. They are running to escape the smell of death.
 
The bombs and the shrapnel that are falling like rain on us are made and supported by your governments: England, USA, Australia, etc.
 
It is better to use these funds for health and education.
 
Which kind of humanity is this? Which kind of modern society is this?
 
This is what the Israeli occupation is doing and all the while using propaganda to try to hide the truth.
 
I call on everyone in this world don't say that you didn't know. I am telling you right now and you can hear me.
 
This occupation, this massacre, is protected by a silent world.
 
Wake up. Don’t remain silent.

-- Middle East Children's Alliance, 20 July 2014


Palestinians sit in the bucket of an excavator as families flee the Shujayeh neighbourhood during heavy Israeli shelling in Gaza City July 20, 2014. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

Palestinians sit in the bucket of an excavator as families flee the Shujayeh neighbourhood during heavy Israeli shelling in Gaza City on July 20, 2014: photo by Finbarr O'Reilly / Reuters, 20 July 2014

'Death and horror' in Gaza as thousands flee Israeli bombardment


Palestinian government condemns attack on Shujai'iya district as 'war crime' as Israel announces deaths of 13 soldiers

The fiercest fighting of the 13-day war in Gaza  erupted on Sunday as Israel dramatically widened its ground offensive, sending tanks and troops into urban areas and causing thousands of panicked civilians to flee.

The Palestinian government has described the attack on Gaza's Shujai'iya neighbourhood, in which at least 60 people were killed, as a "war crime" which required immediate international intervention.

It came as the Israeli military announced that 13 soldiers had been killed in an attack by Palestinian militants in Gaza. No more details were immediately available.

A statement from the Palestinian government said it "condemned in the strongest terms the heinous massacre committed by the Israeli occupation forces against innocent Palestinian civilians in the neighbourhood of Shujai'iya".

The office of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas issued a similar statement condemning the "massacre".

Images of the corpses of women and children lying in streets were posted on Facebook as hospitals were overwhelmed with the dead, injured and those seeking sanctuary from the onslaught.


Children in hospital on July 20 after receiving treatment for their injuries.

Children in hospital on July 20, 2014 after receiving treatment for their injuries
: photo by AP via Egyptian Streets, 20 July 2014 .

Palestinian human rights organisations also warned that the disproportionate number of civilian deaths could constitute a war crime committed by Israel.

Despite Israel saying it had agreed to a two-hour ceasefire in the middle of the day, requested by the Red Cross to allow for the injured and dead to be evacuated, shelling and gunfire continued. Israel blamed continued Hamas rocket fire for the breakdown of the humanitarian truce.

All morning, terrified people ran from their homes, some barefoot and nearly all empty-handed. Others crowded on the backs of trucks or rode on the bonnets of cars in a desperate attempt to flee. Sky News reported that some had described a "massacre" in Shujai'iya. Witnesses reported hearing small arms fire inside Gaza, suggesting gun battles on the streets. Heavy shelling continued from the air and sea.


Palestinians flee their homes in Gaza's eastern Shejaiya district on July 20, 2014, after heavy Israeli shelling that left casualties lying in the streets, an AFP correspondent reported. Ambulances were unable to reach much of the area along the border because of heavy fire, and emergency services told AFP there were reports of dead and wounded trapped by the bombardment. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)

Palestinians flee their homes in Gaza's eastern Shejaiya district on Sunday after heavy Israeli shelling
: photo by Mohammed Abed / AFP, 20 July 2014

Bodies were pulled from rubble amid massive destruction of buildings in the neighbourhood. Masked gunmen were on the streets.

Late on Saturday evening, Israeli forces had hit eastern areas of Gaza City with the heaviest bombardment yet of the 13-day war. The assault was most intense in the direction of Shujai'iya, where an orange glow of flames lit up the sky. At one stage, artillery and mortar rounds were hitting the outskirts of the city every five seconds. Later in the night jets flew low passes over the coast.

The Guardian saw families squeezing into the back of what few vehicles were available as streets further east were pounded by artillery fire.


A Palestinian girl looks out from a vehicle while fleeing the Shujayeh neighbourhood during heavy Israeli shelling in Gaza City July 20, 2014. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

A Palestinian girl looks out from a vehicle while fleeing the Shujayeh neighbourhood during heavy Israeli shelling in Gaza City July 20, 2014
: photo by Finbarr O'Reilly / Reuters, 20 July 2014

Columns of people, many of them too scared, angry and shocked to speak, approached down the main road to the east and from side streets, even as small arms fire was audible in the distance.

One of those fleeing was Sabreen Hattad, 34, with her three children. "The Israeli shells were hitting the house. We stayed the night because we were so scared but about six in the morning we decided to escape," she said.

"But where are we supposed to go? The ambulances could not enter and so we ran under shell fire."

Three other men pass by in a hurry clutching bedding in their arms. Asked what they had seen they would only answer: "Death and horror."


A Palestinian man carries the lifeless body of a child to an emergency room at Shifa hospital in Gaza. (AP)

A Palestinian man carries the lifeless body of a child to an emergency room at Shifa hospital in Gaza
: photo by AP, 20 July 2014 via Egyptian Streets

Many of those escaping Shujai'iya made for Gaza's central Shifa hospital, which was engulfed by chaotic scenes and ambulances ferrying the dead came in a steady steam -- among them a local TV cameraman, Khaled Hamad, killed during the overnight offensive, wheeled out wrapped in a bloody plastic shroud.

Those who had fled congregated in corridors, on stairs and in the hospital car park. Staff put mattresses on floors to accommodate the injured, while some patients were being evacuated.


Palestinians, who medics said were wounded during heavy Israeli shelling, sit at a hospital in Gaza City July 20, 2014.  REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Palestinians, who medics said were wounded during heavy Israeli shelling, sit at a hospital in Gaza City July 20, 2014
: photo by Mohammed Salem / Reuters, 20 July 2014

Aish Ijla, 38, whose leg was broken by shrapnel, said: "We live very close to the border. When the shells started we couldn't leave the house. It is two storeys. The shells were hitting the upper floor so we all moved downstairs. There were 30 of us in the house. Then the shrapnel started hitting the door.

"It was quiet for a moment and we decided to run. But as we were on the road a shell landed near me, breaking my leg. I told the family to go on without me and carried on going for a little bit and stopping then going on. Eventually an ambulance reached me after two hours."

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said more than 63,000 people had sought sanctuary in 49 shelters it was providing in Gaza, and it expected the numbers to rise. 

"The number has tripled in the last three days, reflecting the intensity of the conflict and the inordinate threats the fighting is posing to civilians. We call on all sides to exercise maximum restraint and to adhere to obligations under international law to protect civilians and humanitarian workers," said spokesman Chris Gunness.

Peter Beaumont in Gaza City and Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem, The Guardian, Sunday 20 July 2014 10.35 EDT


A Palestinian man carrying children flees the Shujayeh neighbourhood. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly


A Palestinian man carrying children flees the Shujayeh neighbourhood: photo by Finbarr O'Reilly / Reuters, 20 July 2014

Israel kills scores in Gaza City suburb in deadliest assault of offensive so far 

Special dispatch: Peter Beaumont reports from Shujai'iya, where fleeing and injured tell of streets strewn with bodies and rubble


A injured Palestinian woman arrives at a


A woman arrives at al-Shifa hospital, Gaza, where most of those killed and injured in the Israeli assault were taken: photo by Thomas Coex/AFP, 20 July 2014


Al-Beltaji Street, off the main road in Shujai'iya, is a scene of utter devastation -- the site of Israel's bloodiest assault in almost two weeks of fighting in the coastal strip.
An ambulance sat on shot-out tyres, shrapnel punched through its sides. A charred car lay flattened as if by a giant hand. Smoke rose from one end of the street in a dark billowing curtain.

Fallen trees, tangled electricity cables and drifts of rubble covered the road, smashed, chopped and torn apart by Israeli shells and bombs that slammed into this Gaza City district at a rate of one every five seconds on Saturday night and the early hours of Sunday.

A body was carried out of a ruined house, then a second and a third -- seven in total from buildings within a hundred metres of each other during a brief agreed lull in the fighting to evacuate the dead and wounded. A little further along, bodies lay in the street where they had fallen, mostly scorched figures  -- one still in a yellow dressing gown -- others missing limbs.

"Come out it's safe," rescue officials shouted as they picked their way along the street.

At least 67 people -- some fighters but many civilians -- were killed in a night of intense violence in Shujai'iya that has been described by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, as a massacre. Hundreds more were injured.

At the far end of the street, a family emerged running, led by a man cradling a child. Slowed at times by the rubble, their faces, stunned by fear, were deaf to questions, focused only on reaching the road leading to the relative safety of Gaza's City centre.


A Palestinian carries a wounded boy in the emergency room of Shifa hospital in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, Sunday, July 20, 2014. AP/Lefteris Pitarakis

A Palestinian carries a wounded boy in the emergency room of Shifa hospital in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, Sunday, July 20, 2014
: photo by Lefteris Pitarakis / AP, 20 July 2014

Raed Zaqtout fled at 10am on Sunday morning, but returned with his brother in the midst of a two-hour humanitarian ceasefire organised by the Red Cross to retrieve the dead and the injured. The ceasefire only lasted an hour.

"We stayed in the house while they were shelling. Two other families came to shelter with us. In the morning we decided to escape along that lane," he said, pointing to an opening opposite. "Even then some of us were injured, thankfully only lightly, by shrapnel."

Both sides have accused the other of breaking the ceasefire. An Israeli military spokesman conceded that during the brief initial pause in fire, Israeli forces had continued firing in an adjacent neighbourhood -- an area, he claimed, that was not covered by the truce. 

Nonetheless, it is that Israeli fire that appeared to have hastened the Hamas fighters' return to hostilities.

As the regular thud of explosions resumed, three Palestinian fighters -- carrying AK-47s, and with their faces wrapped in scarves -- jogged along the street. Other militants were seen sheltering in the buildings. Shujai'iya residents said the heavy shelling began around midnight as tanks and soldiers reached the edge of their neighbourhood -- a fierce gun battle followed.

In the first hours of shelling, it was too dangerous for ambulances to approach –- residents were faced with a choice: stay and risk being killed while sheltering at home, or make a run for it and risk being caught in the crossfire.

Those who decided to flee started moving at dawn, when Shujai'iya was still under heavy Israeli tank and mortar fire. They hurried past the corpses in the street, some carried their frightened children, most with only the clothes they had escaped in -- several barefoot.


Palestinians flee the Shujayeh neighbourhood during heavy Israeli shelling in Gaza City July 20, 2014. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

Palestinians flee the Shujayeh neighbourhood during heavy Israeli shelling in Gaza City July 20, 2014
: photo by Finbarr O'Reilly / Reuters, 20 July 2014
 
Among the 30,000 who fled were Sabreen Hattad, 34, and her three children.

"The Israeli shells were hitting the house. We stayed the night because we were so scared but at about 6am, we decided to escape.

"But where are we supposed to go? The ambulances could not enter and so we ran under shell fire."
Three men rushed past, clutching bedding. Asked what they had seen they replied only: "Death and horror." The sound of small-arms fire rattled from the direction they had come.


A Palestinian man reacts as he carries a boy, who medics said was wounded in Israeli shelling, at a hospital in Gaza City July 20, 2014. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

A Palestinian man reacts as he carries a boy, who medics said was wounded in Israeli shelling, at a hospital in Gaza City July 20, 2014
: photo by Suhaib Salem / Reuters, 20 July 2014

Many of those who fled Shujai'iya headed for Gaza City's Shifa hospital, which was engulfed in chaos. Ambulances that had finally and briefly been given access to the site of the carnage sped in steadily, ferrying the dead -- among them a local TV cameraman, Khaled Hamad, who was killed during the overnight offensive alongside a paramedic.
At the morgue, dozens crowded the entrance demanding to be let in to look for missing relatives -- and too often found them.


A medic carries a young girl killed on Sunday in Al-Shuja'iya

A medic carries a young girl killed on Sunday in Al-Shuja’iya
: photo by AP via Egyptian Streets, 20 July 2014

Inside the hospital, the staff put mattresses on floors to accommodate the injured, while other patients were evacuated. Nurses carefully placed Aish Ijla, 38, on a mattress in a corridor. His leg had been broken by shrapnel.

"When the shells started we couldn't leave the house -- 30 of us. The shells were hitting the upper floor so we all moved downstairs. Then the shrapnel started hitting our door.

"It became quiet for a moment and we decided we should run. But as we were on the road a shell landed near me, breaking my leg. I told my family to go on with out me. I carried on -- stopping, then limping. Two hours later, an ambulance reached me ."


The sister of medic Fuad Jaber, who was killed while on duty in Gaza's eastern Shujayeh district, mourns during his funeral in Gaza City on July 20, 2014. (Photo: AFP - Mohammed Abed)

The sister of medic Fuad Jaber, who was killed while on duty in Gaza’s eastern Shujayeh district, mourns during his funeral in Gaza City on July 20, 2014
: photo by Mohammed Abed / AFP, 20 July 2014

Arye Shalicar, a spokesman for the Israeli military, told the Guardian that Shujai'iya was a "frontline base" for Hamas fighters: "140 rockets have been launched from there in the last week and a half alone. And [there are] not only rockets but tunnels.

"We asked the population to evacuate to other neighbourhoods. If we were not bothered about civilians we would have just bombed from the air rather than sending in tanks and soldiers, dozens of whom have been wounded."

Hamas fighters may be based in Shujai'iya and rockets fired from its streets, but it is also the most densely populated residential neighbourhood in Gaza City. Many homes have been targeted.

The injured were still being brought to Shifa hospital on Sunday evening. Two young girls arrived, one with a bleeding head wound, another with her teeth smashed out, covered in dust. Another man had lost most of his face.

Naser Tattar, the hospital's director, said at least 17 children, 14 women and four elderly were among the 67 killed in the Israeli assault. About 400 more were wounded. The medical director, Dr Mohammad El Ron, stood in the casualty department, exhausted: "Most of the casualties brought in so far have been dead."

Peter Beaumont in Shujai'iya, The Guardian, Sunday 20 July 2014 13.41 EDT

Smoke rises during what witnesses said were heavy Israeli shelling at the Shejaia neighbourhood in Gaza City July 20, 2014.  REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Smoke rises during what witnesses said was heavy Israeli shelling in the Shejaia neighbourhood in Gaza City July 20, 2014: photo by Mohammed Salem / Reuters, 20 July 2014

Dr. Mona El-Farra: We are surrounded by death

July 17th, 2014
3:22 PM PST
 
The following conversation took place moments ago between MECA staff member Ziad Abbas in the United States and Dr. Mona El- Farra in Gaza, as Israel launched its ground invasion.


Ziad Abbas: How are you doing?
Dr. Mona El- Farra:  I’m surviving. But it seems as of an hour ago, another war has just begun.
ZA:  Dr. Mona, where are you now?
ME:  I am staying in Al-Remal, near the center of the Gaza Strip.  I came to stay with two elderly friends who are ill. They asked me to be with them since I am a physician and their chronic diseases have made them very scared for their lives.  Especially since they live on the 6th floor of a 7 story building with no electricity and or working elevator. Plus, perhaps other families in the building will feel better knowing there is a doctor in the building.   
Wait, wait! The bombing is very close! (pause and sounds of bombing) It’s very close.  The whole building is shaking again, very badly!
(pause)
They are bombing from the air, sea and ground.  I can hear continuous bombing.  The building is constantly shaking. It could very well be that this is the end.
ZA:  What do you mean, “the end”?
ME:  When you hear these sounds and feel the shaking of the building under you, it means any moment could mean your death.  You cannot think of anything other than what that would be like. We are surrounded by death, from the air to the sea and the ground.  A few minutes ago our neighbors got a call from the Israeli military that they are going to bomb the home three hundred feet from me.  So we decided to move from the living room, to another room thirty feet to the east, which might be safer.  But no place is safe right now.
ZA:  Are you okay, Mona?  Do you want me to end the call?
ME:  No, no, no, no. Please stay on the line with me; I’m scared.  It is a terrible day.  I can’t believe this is happening around us.  It’s as if we are living in a nightmare or a horror film. You know, I came to this building this evening thinking that I could rest.  I changed my clothes hoping to relax.  But when they started bombing I changed my clothes again to be prepared in case for anything that might happen.
I have two small bags -- one with my keys and passports, money and important documents and the other smaller bag with my medicine that I carry with me at all times like antibiotics and other such.  I carry the medicine with me at all times in case anyone needs immediate help.  This would be similar to the Bay Area and people preparing themselves in the case of an earthquake or natural disaster. But nothing about this disaster is natural.    
ZA:  Were you able to go home to your apartment today?
ME:  No, there’s no time.  We had five hours (the temporary ceasefire) and I used the time to work with the MECA team to distribute milk and supplies to 300 families.  I am really tired, you know, and just couldn’t go to check on my house because were just too busy.  I feel that I carry a duty on my shoulders, and I did my duty.  And I only ran back here afterwards because they were begging me to come and stay with them.

[Dr. Mona’s apartment is near the coast.  She couldn’t stay there because she lost the windows and it’s dangerously close to the water.]
You know, Ziad, I can move around. I don’t have my children with me -- they are grown -- but I can only imagine how it is for families and their children surrounded by these type of horrific sounds and destruction.  I was speaking with my nephew today and he told me that his 4-year-old son awoke screaming running to his father during the night after the sound of the bombs.  The father wanted to ease his fears and said, “Don’t be scared, this is fireworks.”  And the boy responded, “I don’t like fireworks anymore.  I don’t like these kind of fireworks.”  What Israel is doing is not just killing people; it is traumatizing generations.
ZA:  Dr Mona, I know the situation is very hard, but I need to ask, how are people managing the day-to-day?
ME:  I talked with many people today and one of the main concerns is the issue of water. Many neighborhoods can’t access water at all because they bombed the infrastructure and water lines. And people living in buildings like this can’t get water because there’s no electricity to pump it.  We have a few bottles of water with us right now, and this is what other people are doing -- storing and rationing what water they can find in anything that will hold water
My God, the sounds are crazy! It is a combination of bombing, the sounds of helicopters and  F-16s and various sounds from all directions!
[LOUD explosions in the background]
I’m really scared now.  Wait, I want to check on my friends and see if they are all right. 
OK, I’m back.  Please don’t get off the phone.  Stay, stay.
ZA:  I’m with you.  Don’t worry.  I’m not going anywhere.
ME:  I don’t know if we will survive this attack again.
ZA:  You survived 2008, 2009, you survived 2012 and you will make it.
ME:  Who knows?  You never get used to war. And this attack is much more intense than I can ever remember attacks being.  You never get used to death surrounding you.  In any case, I feel good about what I did today.  I did my duty today.  But what about the rest of the world? What are they doing outside while our children are dying and we are being bombed?  What is their duty? 
ZA:  Are you okay, Mona?
ME:  Don’t worry, don’t worry, I’m a strong woman, Ziad, at least sometimes.  I don’t know what it means.  I don’t know the meaning of strong anymore.  How can you be strong in this situation?   Listen, listen. Can you hear that people are knocking on the door of the apartment?  Wait. Call me back in half an hour.  (Dr. Mona hung up.)

-- Middle East Children's Alliance, 17 July 2014   



A Child's View of Gaza #25, 2011, from a MECA project in Gaza for children traumatised by war



A Child's View of Gaza #22, 2011, from a MECA project in Gaza for children traumatised by war


A Child's View of Gaza #12, 2011, from a MECA project in Gaza for children traumatised by war