Development & Aid, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa

MIDEAST: Nowhere To Run To

Mohammed Omer

JABALYIA, Gaza, Mar 5 2008 (IPS) - An ambulance races through Jabalyia refugee camp to pick up the critically injured – and the body parts strewn across the street. A normal day&#39s job these days.

Another funeral procession in Gaza Credit: Mohammed Omer

Another funeral procession in Gaza Credit: Mohammed Omer

Families crouch in makeshift shelters around handheld radios, listening out for some word that their agony will end. There is no electricity, clean water is at a premium.

No sign yet of an end to the &#39hot winter&#39 that Israel has determined for Gaza residents. Israel is determined to finish the elected Hamas government and leadership.

If there is activity around Jabaliya camp, it is at the Kamal Adwan hospital. The wounded are brought in one after another. Frantic family members struggle to grab the attention of exhausted emergency room orderlies, doctors and nurses.

An ambulance arrives, but with no injured persons in it. The staff bring out body parts wrapped in blankets – the remains of ten children and three women. Minutes later another ambulance arrives. A man is brought in, much of his skin seems to be missing. Mercifully, he arrives unconscious.

With just two operating rooms to work in, Kamal Adwan&#39s surgeons struggle to attend to everyone brought in. Blood stains their uniforms, at times pieces of flesh and brain matter can be seen stuck to their collars and sleeves. The doctors are determined to save everyone they can.

An orderly wheels in another victim. A young man in coma is brought in, bleeding profusely from multiple shrapnel wounds from an air-to-ground missile.

Suddenly, all eyes are raised towards the ceiling. The thwop-thwop of a helicopter gunship draws nearer. Moments later there are sounds of explosion. The Israelis are bombing again, quite close. Some of those waiting at the hospital scream. Others sit looking blank.

A young man is lying down for treatment in a shared room. Both his legs, and one arm, are gone. He is trying to say something but he cannot.

"He was feeding the sheep at our home when an Israeli F-16 bombed our house," says his father by his side. "His legs were blown out from under him."

"Wake up Samah…please!" a girl is screaming. The girl she is calling out to is still, her torso burnt black. So is what is left of the body of another young woman in the hospital room. They were her sisters Samah 17 and Salwa Asalyia 23.

Her family members remember the moment the ambulance arrived. "Where is the rest of the body?" the ambulance driver asked. Out on the street the killings continue. This IPS correspondent saw a girl, about 17, screaming. A younger boy was lying motionless on the street. She stepped out towards him. As she approached the body, an Israeli sniper shot her dead. She was Jaclyn Abu Shbak, 17, and her brother was Eyad, 14.

The carnage continues, in what Israelis call self-defence. On Feb. 29, Israeli deputy defence minister Matan Vilnai threatened "Shoah" (holocaust) on Gaza in response to home-made Qassam rocket fire directed at the Israeli colony Sedrot, which resulted in the death of three Israelis.

The Israeli siege of Gaza through border closures, and withholding of food, water, and medical supplies enters its 25th month this March. But now the attacks on top of the siege get bloodier by the day.

For the first eight months after Israel removed its illegal colonies from Gaza in September 2005, Hamas and the Palestinian resistance observed an eight-month hunda (ceasefire) despite continued random shelling by Israel, kidnapping of officials and targeted assassinations.

This ended in June 2006 when an Israeli ship bombed a beach in Gaza, killing 13 people, 11 of them from one family. Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah repeatedly approached Israel to negotiate a ceasefire. Israel has rejected each overture, and intensified its assaults.

The United Nations defines &#39massacre&#39 as the death of 50 or more civilians. Operation Hot Winter claimed 60 lives on its first day, and so far at least 126 killed, among them 39 children and babies, and 12 women, and 380 injured. Hundreds of houses have been destroyed.

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