Is the world watching?
Without justification, Israel kills, writes Saleh Al-Naami
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TOTAL DESTRUCTION: Bodies of five Palestinian siblings laying down in the hospital, rushing a wounded policeman to hospital, smoke rising from different places in Rafah and Gaza as a result of round-the-clock Israeli raids
Wailing the entire time, she inspected 30 corpses piled up in a room of Shuhada Al-Aqsa Hospital in the central Gaza Strip, and nearly fell apart when she couldn't identify her 24-year-old son Rami Hussein, a Palestinian police officer. Rami's colleagues had told her that he had likely been transferred to this hospital, but this distraught mother couldn't find him among the corpses whose faces had been disfigured or whose heads were missing. Then one of her daughters convinced her to look again, focusing on the toes of their right feet, for Rami had lost one of his toes in an accident two years earlier. The sobbing mother started over and soon realised that the sixth corpse was Rami. She recognised him only by his missing toe ó his face had been burnt and disfigured, and the upper part of his body looked like a piece of coal. Following much screaming, a nurse wrapped Rami's body in a blanket and put him in the taxi that had brought his mother and three sisters to the hospital. They took him away to bury him.
Scenes like this were repeated over and again this week in all of the Gaza Strip's hospitals. Israel used one-ton bombs in most of its bombing raids, and their force disfigured victims so severely that their remains were difficult to identify. Due to the large number of people killed, corpses were placed in rooms rather than morgues, as they would have been under normal circumstances. The headless body of a boy between eight and 10 years old was in the same room where Rami's body lay in Shuhada Al-Aqsa Hospital. The people who took his body to the hospital say that he was passing near the central Gaza Strip's main police station when it was destroyed. In another small room nearby, corpses were laid on the ground alongside heads and other body parts. Some of the heads were placed near their corresponding bodies, but it was difficult to piece together many of the other parts. And since many of the bodies that hadn't been identified were laid on the ground rather than placed in refrigerated morgues, the hospital administration worried that they might begin decomposing before relatives could claim them and bury them.
The people who have removed corpses in many of the sites that were destroyed by bombing have left behind many body parts. They were focused on retrieving full corpses, and tried to leave as soon as possible for fear that the site might be bombed again, as happened several times. A nurse in Shuhada Al-Aqsa Hospital, the central Gaza Strip's largest, told Al-Ahram Weekly that much of the intensive care equipment is out of order, which makes it impossible to treat serious injuries and leads to deaths. "Most of the injuries brought to the hospital during continued bombing operations are critical, and because there are so many of them, some of the injured people can't be treated with intensive care equipment," he explained.
Another problem leading to the death of injured people is the lack of reception rooms that can receive large numbers of people, and many hospitals subsequently turning corridors into operating theatres. Muhammad Ibrahim, a nurse in Dar Al-Shifa Hospital, told the Weekly that under these circumstances it is impossible to provide a hygienic environment for surgery as the space must be fully sterilised and cannot be. Comparing the situations in Gaza and Israel, he notes that while settlers in shock are admitted to hospitals and treated, Gazans with wounds are not admitted to hospitals due to the high pressure on reception and operating rooms.
Also this week in the central Gaza Strip, women and children sat on a rooftop despite the cold and the strong winds, and even as the sounds of explosions reverberated all around them. This roof belonged to the home of Muhammad Jaber in the Al-Mughazi Refugee Camp, and this vigil took place after the family received a phone call from a stranger claiming he was from the Israeli army. He ordered them to immediately evacuate before their home would be levelled to the ground. Hundreds of Palestinian families received similar notices via cell phone from the Israeli army, demanding that they leave their homes before they were bombed. Palestinians responded to these orders by forming human shields on the rooftops to prevent the occupation forces from carrying out their threats. The plan to bomb them failed, for the Israeli army did not bomb any of the houses it had threatened to.
Palestinian security sources told the Weekly that these phone calls made by Israeli intelligence were part of the psychological war being waged against Palestinians. Sources said that Israel was seeking to break the morale of the Palestinian public prior to waging a land-based offensive in the Gaza Strip in the near future.