Sunday, January 11, 2009
Weep not for Gaza but the cat
AMSTERDAM, Jan 9 (IPS) - On the phone from Gaza, Zahrah Salem shares the news she has just seen, that so many at the White House were “deeply saddened” by the death of the cat India Willie (see picture above). Why, she asks, is nobody at the White House deeply saddened by the death of so many children in Gaza.
After a pause she says, “At least the cat did not die hungry, like the children in Gaza.”
Zahrah Salem, 64, has four children and 15 grandchildren to worry about. Day after day of bombing brings blessing they are still there. “We all sleep in one room,” she says. “So if we die, we die together. What if we die and the children don’t, we don’t want to leave them behind to suffer.”
These days the injuries suffered by this IPS correspondent at the hands of the Israelis on trying to return home to Gaza seem trivial in the face of what is going on in Gaza. And in the face of the fears over the fate of family and friends back home.
From the comfort of a hospital in Amsterdam, thoughts seem focussed day and night on survivors, on who might perhaps be in hospital in Gaza – lucky enough to make it to hospital, lucky enough perhaps to be still there. And on what a very different place a hospital in Gaza can be from one in Amsterdam.
“We do not receive patients, we receive remains,” says Ahmed Abdelrahman, a staff nurse at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. The sound of ambulance sirens screams into the phone as we speak. “It is a job sometimes to put limbs together in the morgue, to find out which body part belongs to who.”
Staff risk their lives to save the injured. “We have been shot at many times as we evacuate injured people or collect bodies,” says Abdelrahman. “I have as we speak eight calls from the east side from people who are bleeding, including two women. But our ambulance crew was fired on by the Israelis as they went to help.”
Dr. Mawia Hassanien, head of emergency services at Shifa Hospital says at least 12 emergency workers have been killed and 32 injured. Eleven ambulances have been destroyed.
The injured who are brought to hospital successfully find little treatment possible. The Egyptian authorities have opened the Rafah crossing briefly on a few occasions to allow in medical supplies. But that is a small fraction of what Gaza needs.
Many in Gaza, including Hamas members, say they do not know what to do to stop this. Some scattered groups not under Hamas control continue to fire rockets into Israel. These rockets have killed four and injured 40, and spread serious anxiety among Israelis in Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beersheba, Sderot and some other towns in western Negev.
But the rockets are only an excuse for Israel to destroy the Palestinian structure, Gazans say. An Israeli military spokesman has said the Israeli Defence Forces trained for the attack 18 months at a model of the main city on a desert army base. “Our soldiers know all the back streets where the targets are,” he said.
Abu Ghasam, 42, of Buriej refugee camp, says he cannot understand the Israeli assault, and “why the people being killed are the civilians here, and not the ones launching the rockets.”
Ghasam, father of six, has little time to worry about these questions, though. His main concern is to use a few hours of ceasefire to buy bread for his children. He usually finds bakeries closed. For the safe, hunger is now becoming a greater problem, by the hour.
Zahrah Salem knew people close by who have been killed. She can see the mourning tents. “But I am afraid to go and pay condolences,” she says. “The Israeli planes are hitting us everywhere.”
She can hear them again and again, and she can hear the bombs and missiles come screaming down. But she does not close the window. If the bomb just misses you, there will be the glass splinters.