Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1207, (24 - 30 July 2014)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1207, (24 - 30 July 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Gaza’s Shejaiya carnage fills Shifa morgue

Mohamed Omer reports from Gaza on Israel’s latest massacre that saw ordinary Palestinian families obliterated by tank shells

Al-Ahram Weekly

“No, it’s not him,” says the brother of Mohamed Al-Mobayed as he moves on to the next body, searching for his brother. Half of the family is at the reception, and the other half at the morgue.

The ambulance arrives, asking crowds to clear the road so as to pass through and offload casualties and the dead. As the ambulance doors open, people run forward looking for their missing relatives.

“No, that’s not him, dad,” one of the brothers screams to his older father as the ambulance arrives. A shout comes over the air to all Al-Mobayed family, “Here is Mohamed.” The whole family runs to him, thinking he is alive. But Mohamed’s body arrives with scores of other bodies and mixed bags of fingers, heads, chests, legs and feet.

It’s up to ambulance crews to sort through the body parts to match them correctly for identification before preparation for shrouding and burial.

The screams of grief begin among all members of the family, but everyone else is still looking for their own missing loved ones. Hundreds of people are here, and all are looking for relatives and friends. All are worried that the next ambulances will bring their relatives to the hospital’s doors.

The human carnage of Shejaiya began Sunday morning when Israeli tanks started a massive shelling barrage on people’s homes. The heavy tank shells hit houses directly. Some of the people were able to run away under gunfire, but a great many others were hit.

Umm Ahed Al-Qanou, 55-years-old, had to walk five kilometres with her eight children until she could find transport to take her and the children somewhere safe. Here at Shifa Hospital, she does not know where her husband is.

She is caught between two fires: her eight hungry children by her side, and a husband and ninth child she does not know the whereabouts of. One young man helps her look for her husband or his body, as may be. She still hopes he and her other child are alive, but no one knows yet for sure.

Ambulance crews say they were unable to evacuate bodies, laid out or thrown on the street by bombs. “It’s a massacre. Dead and injured men, women, children are on the streets, and we are unable to evacuate them because we are being shot at too,” screams an ambulance driver.

Four Israeli soldiers died Saturday night, apparently in a fierce battle with Palestinian armed resistance involving anti-tank shells and automatic weapons. At least 100 Palestinians were killed Sunday and over 300 injured, say doctors at Shifa Hospital. The numbers are increasing as more bodies are dug out from under piles of bombed rubble that used to be homes. The death toll since the start of Israel’s attacks stands at 425 people killed, with 2,900 injured, the majority being civilians, says the United Nations.

The Red Cross attempted to organise a ceasefire to evacuate bodies, but medics say it was too short a time to dig deep for bodies in collapsed buildings. This was one of the fiercest nights since Israel’s war began two weeks ago. Most families were bombed while sleeping, others killed while fleeing their homes in search of shelter, says Osama Al-Orbaji, 28-years-old.

“We were in our homes when we heard exchange of fire at 02:30 this morning. I thought it would end soon.” Just before the sun set on Shejaiya, east of Gaza City, tank shells started to hit everywhere. On average, 14 tank shells were fired in 45 seconds, according to this reporter’s count.

“Each time my family and I attempt to get outside, we are faced with tank shells coming towards us. There is nowhere to escape to,” Al-Orbaji says as he stands searching for bodies or other human parts of cousins.

“I saw the massacre of the Ayyad family, when tank shells hit them over and over again. Twelve people were trying to flee, but were blown to pieces, splattered over the walls and concrete,” Osama says, looking at the ambulances still arriving and crowds of people screaming in fear.

“The mother of Ayyad was holding her children by their hands. But I saw them disappear when the Israeli tank shell hit,” he says. Then a small child’s face, the top of a child’s head — the rest was split into pieces. His mother’s body blown into small pieces, he says as he weeps.

“I started to run with my family. Under our feet were the bodies of our neighbours, and blood everywhere,” he says, showing the blood on his bare feet, over his trousers and what appears to be the flesh of someone still stuck to his forehead.

“They bombed mosques, schools, homes, cars and everything — the area is turned into just the ruins and rubble of bombed homes, and bodies are everywhere,” he adds.

“My relatives are still indoors, my in-laws are stuck there and we still don’t know if they are alive,” he adds. His only option is to wait for the ambulances to come. Osama is scared that bodies are still underneath buildings and no one has been able to reach them.

“The baby son of my in-laws is two months old. I know he was killed early morning in his house next to Al-Motassem Mosque,” he says. Yet the tiny body he is looking for is not yet among the burnt, cold bodies of those already in the morgue.

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