the white phosphorous bombed and machine-gunned Wafa rehabilitation hospital

front of the Wafa hospital, used as target practise by IOF soldiers invading from eastern Gaza-Israel Green Line border during 2008-2009 Israeli war on Gaza

By Eva Bartlett

The streets leading from the seriously-damaged Wafa rehabilitation centre in Sheijaiyee were filled with black filth smelling of sewage. The hospital, attacked on January 12th with a chemical bomb that may well be white phosphorus and which set fire to the roof, and whose 4 different buildings were shelled intensely on January 15th, is trying to re-build and re-open, as is the shelled, burned, seriously-damaged al Quds hospital in Tel el Hawa, Gaza city.

Even today, after mentioning to the Canadian TV crew accompanying me that fire blobs had burned up to yesterday, we found still more blobs spread out, smoldering and willingly breaking into white smoking fires anew.

front of the Wafa hospital, used as target practise by IOF soldiers invading from eastern Gaza-Israel Green Line border during 2008-2009 Israeli war on Gaza

inside the Wafa rehab hospital, room shelled by invading Israeli army after invalid patients had been hastily moved to western side of hospital

inside the Wafa rehab hospital, room shelled by invading Israeli army after invalid patients had been hastily moved to western side of hospital

inside the Wafa rehab hospital, room shelled by invading Israeli army after invalid patients had been hastily moved to western side of hospital

inside the Wafa rehab hospital, room shelled by invading Israeli army after invalid patients had been hastily moved to western side of hospital

inside the Wafa rehab hospital, room shelled by invading Israeli army after invalid patients had been hastily moved to western side of hospital

inside the Wafa rehab hospital, room shelled by invading Israeli army after invalid patients had been hastily moved to western side of hospital

inside the Wafa rehab hospital, room shelled by invading Israeli army after invalid patients had been hastily moved to western side of hospital

inside the Wafa rehab hospital after attacked by Israeli army shelling and machine gun firing during 2008-2009 Israeli war on Gaza

the Wafa rehab hospital after attacked by Israeli army shelling and machine gun firing during 2008-2009 Israeli war on Gaza

home for the elderly, shelled and badly damaged

wafa home for the elderly, shelled and badly damaged

wafa new rehab complex badly damaged from Israeli shelling

wafa new rehab complex badly damaged from Israeli shelling

generator for wafa new rehab complex badly damaged from Israeli shelling

wafa new rehab complex badly damaged from Israeli shelling

phosphorous still ignited many days after the Israeli shelling of the hospital complex

I have seen this often enough now. The Canadian new crew were impressed by it, by the fact that it’s now 8 days after the fire and the blobs are still simmering, smoldering, ready to flame up.

The Red Crescent team of the north had gathered at the Ezbet Abed Rabbo station, to cut swathes of transparent plastic into lengths to be further cut to fit glass-less windows, blown out in the bombings on and around the houses. This is the first step in providing some immediate relief from the cold. For the homeless, however, I don’t know what will be offered, if tents are available…

In the next few hours, I was able to meet another extended family, take their testimonies (which included shelling of their house, phosphorus-like fires, sadistic drawings left behind by the IOF occupying the house, the imprisonment of the elderly parents for 4 days (no food, no water, no toilets, no medicines) and the killing of their sheep and goats. The mother was terrified, and thanked me in a stream of frightened babble intermixed with gratitude for listening. “We saw terrible things, terrible things,” she said. “They’ve come 3 times, and this was by far the worst ever. I saw dead bodies on the streets. We are just an old man and woman, why did they do this to us?” The medicine and insulin that she should have been taking lay in the dirt, stepped on, where it was thrown by soldiers taking them from their one-room house to a room of their sons’ house. The older man pulled an inhaler out of his breast pocket, saying that this too was denied him during his imprisonment.

*very brief clip (camera battery died) to show the panic and trauma of the mother, even days after her escape from the ordeal of being held captive by Israeli soldiers

I also returned to the home of my friends, to take the testimony of Abu N who I’d worried so much about. Two days ago when I’d first seen him again, after nearly 3 weeks of wondering if he was still alive, he’d been pale, sallow, nervous, looked defeated. Yesterday, too, he looked weak, less the proud elderly man he’d been before. Today, I was gratified to see much of his former self returning, despite his ordeal, despite the killing of his wife. He and one son chuckled as they vied for conversation time, his English returning only in bits but his determination to practice it returning in waves. Seeing the two, so crushed by the loss of Umm N, returning to life was inspiring. H. has told me many times now, though, that he cannot tell me of his own losses during these weeks. They are too great, and so he moves on without healing, but moves on at least.

Rudely, I left before a meal, though all insisted I stay. Normally, I would not turn it down, particularly after they had just begun to get their house into less of a disaster state: feces cleaned up from where the IOF soldiers had strewn it, all over the house; bags of soldiers’ filthy leavings taken out; soldier-soiled clothing gathered, bagged, and burned; and the many shattered dishes and broken items cleared out. It is barer, and there are so many new bullet and tank shelling holes. The un-describable, terrible, stench still lingers, that of an army which occupied the house for 2 weeks and left shit and unknown foul smells throughout the house. It is a stench I’ve smelled in other houses in the area occupied by the IOF.

But even though I was very happy they had progressed enough to cook in their kitchen and bask in the hospitality they love, I had to leave, to allow time for visiting Arafa’s family.

14 days after his murder, the family was finally able to begin the 3 day mourning process. I visited them on the last day, unaware until today that is was happening. I found his widow as expected, grieving painfully and lamenting the loss of a kind man, good husband, loving father. After seeing bodies in many states of injury, near-death, and savagely-rendered death, I found that I am still able to cry. While the horrors of Israel’s continual bombing, I’d become surprisingly immune to shock or fear from the noise or notion of being hit, and even to death. But just looking into Arafa’s widow’s eyes, seeing her pain and remembering my own pain at losing him, my emotions proved to be intact still, meaning that a lot will surface later, in quieter times.

And this realization leads to the subsequent realization that so many Palestinians don’t really have a means of addressing their pain and psychological scarring. Particularly as so many have repeatedly endured invasions, as well as other emotionally-damaging things like living under military occupation, being imprisoned or having family members imprisoned, and living under siege and in closed borders, to name but some.

Abdullah, one of Abu N’s grandchildren, cries pretty much all of the time I see him now. He was a bit of a cheeky 6 year old when I first met him 2 months ago. Now he seems stuck in his memories of bomb explosions and drone sounds (the drones I can identify with: even now, near midnight on January 20, 2 days post cease-fire, the drones circle.  The very distinct noise the drones here make is not a noise I can disassociate from the 3 weeks of precise bombardment and death which accompanied it). And very likely he won’t get any sort of therapy for this, although his family is compassionate, and will have to carry this baggage along with future baggage, as will the majority of those here. The most visible aspects of this war on Gaza are the massive craters, the demolished houses and buildings in every direction, in every town and city, the burnt-out warehouses and shops and hospital rooms and schools and cars…and the amputated limbs, the burned skin, the still-burning fires. But those very deep emotional injuries are what were intended to cripple society even more than physical damage.


   

*Arafa abd al Dayem, killed January 4th while trying to recover a wounded and a dead body. He stood at the back of his ambulance, loading the corpse, when it was shelled by an Israeli tank, inflicting fatal wounds.


*another of the many sketches on a chessboard-sized scrap of material left by Israeli soldiers occupying a house in Ezbet Abed Rabbo, eastern Jabaliya.


37 comments

  1. Eva, thank you for these reports. They are so important to me as I seek the truth of what is happening in Gaza. Your work with the ISM and your eyewitness reporting are amazing.

    I have been listening to your audio reports via Flashpoints Radio.

    I am Canadian too, but ironically I have to listen to a Berkeley, California radio show in mp3 format on the Internet to be properly informed about Israel’s on going war crimes because the Canadian media is so censored and/or biased.

    Be safe. It it you and not Barack Obama who gives me hope in these dark days and I intend to direct all my friends and family to your blog!

    Solidarity with Palestine!

  2. Thank you so much for posting these reports. I feel like I am learning to know these wonderful people through you. The prayers for them are constant and the love. I’m an American who is disgusted at my government’s participation in all that has happened.

    Brian is right. It is you and people like you who give me hope for the future.

    Palestine will rise like the phoenix from the ashes.

    God bless you all
    Dee

  3. Yes Iadiedee, Gaza will rise again from the ashes ..on tv today a little girl ,no more than 4 or 5 years old who had become an orphan,losing all her family .. was giving an interview,it was in Arabic , she said God will give me patience and this is my country , I will never leave,

    God bless the Gazans and all the good people in the world who feel for them , bombs will never defeat people like that , they are the true new heros !Pamela

  4. Thank you so much for your love and courage, staying with the Palestinian people in Gaza. Your reports are much more important than any mass media bullshit.
    Baron Stucki

  5. Dear Eva, I follow your blog faithfully (while organising here in Montréal) and if you see Arafa’s widow and family again, please tell them how touched we are by the loss of such a good, kind and courageous man.

    Tomorrow there will be a rally of women in Montréal for the women (and all the people) of Gaza.

  6. The Israelis are finally having to admit that they not only used phosphorus (they could scarcely deny that) but that they used it as a weapon (forbidden, even against combatants) rather than as a smokescreen (permitted, under certain conditions):
    “They obviously could not have gone on denying the use of phosphorus,” Donatella Rovera, Amnesty researcher for Israel and the Occupied Territories, told the Guardian yesterday. “There are still phosphorus wedges burning all over Gaza including at the UN compound and at the school.

    “It is clear they are not using it as smoke screen as they claimed. They used it in areas where they had no forces, and there are much less problematic smoke screens that they could have used.”

    Exactly. In the British Army (not exactly a total bunch of angels) we were taught that you don’t use phosphorus a) because of the gruesome effects you’ve witnessed and b) because there are perfectly innocuous types of smoke you can use to cover your movements. So not only is it wrong from a humanitarian point of view, but it’s also unnecessary from a military point of view.
    I’d so love to see the people responsible (from Olmert down to the mortar teams) up in front of a war-crimes tribunal. In Nuremberg.

  7. Dear Eva. We who are thousands of miles away and feel powerless to help are indebted to your bravery and selfless example. Your compassion is an example to us all. The courage and dignity of the Palestinian people in the face of such terrible zionist terrorism is amazing. The destruction is terrible. I am heartbroken and haunted by the sight of the limp lifeless bodies of so many beautiful young children.

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