Gaza: Where Civilians Become Targets
Israel accuses Hamas of hiding 'terrorist infrastructure' among civilians, but does that justify the slaughter of innocent Gazans?
My colleague in Gaza was between BBC Radio interviews early Sunday morning when a powerful blast shook her flat. Glass shards seemed to come from all directions, and for several moments of sheer panic, in the dust, smoke and debris, Fikr tried to stand and find her husband. Still shaken, fearing more attacks, they ran to their neighbour, who was screaming in terror, trying to find her four young children.
Yesterday, before her home was damaged by one of Israel's "targeted" attacks, Fikr spent the day doing emergency response, bringing additional supplies and surgical kits to hospitals barely able to cope with the dead and wounded. Al-Shifa, the largest hospital in Gaza, had run out of space in the morgue almost immediately. Now the dead overflow into the corridors, and outside on to the streets.
Gaza's hospitals were at a breaking point long ago. After months of collective punishment and the denial of the most mundane and most essential, it is near impossible to treat the hundreds of injured streaming in to the emergency wards. The situation today for hospitals - just like for all Gazans - is like being slowly starved, strangled and deprived of oxygen, then having your head plunged and held underwater. Our medical sources in the hospitals report that of the injured from yesterday's attacks alone, more than 100 will likely die in the coming hours and days. Injuries are severe, and the hospital wards are not only overwhelmed by the numbers, but have less resources - such as alcohol, morphine, plastic gloves - to treat the wounded.
It is hell and chaos, says Fikr. Gaza has experienced severe attacks before, but nothing on this scale. Hundreds of anxious and terrified people are searching hospital wards and the bodies to find sons, daughters, relatives. When a family member is identified among the dead, the family is told that they must bring their dead relative away - there is simply no space, and more dead and injured are still arriving.
While organising for additional medical supplies, Fikr tries for over an hour to reach another colleague. Further south, Nawrez is coordinating MAP's blood donations facility. But in the chaos, the phone networks are down. When we finally get through to Nawrez, she tells of the ongoing horror where she is. That morning, several major attacks were very near her home. One of the worst - with reports of 40 dead - was a mere 50m from her children's school. Classes were in session at the time of the attacks, and hundreds of terrified children and frantic parents struggled to find each other.
Back in the near empty medical storage room at Al-Shifa, Fikr sees the man in charge of medical supplies faint: he had just been told that his son was killed.
Israel's spokespersons may constantly repeat that these attacks are "targeted", but targeted attacks don't kill this many civilians. They don't destroy and cause chaos and panic in entirely residential areas. If we accept - by silence or without questioning - that anything and everyone can be defined as "terrorist infrastructure", then we are designating all civilians in Gaza as being targets. And the targeting continues.
© 2008 Guardian News and Media Limited