Gaza doctors rebuild medical center destroyed by Israel

11 December 2012

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Abu Mohammed finds paperwork amongst the rubble of the destroyed interior ministry building, across the street from his bombed-out home. 

(Eva Bartlett / IPS)

GAZA CITY (IPS) - The Abu Shabaan complex in eastern Gaza City hosted a medical center. The center was severely damaged when eight Israeli bombs struck a government compound 10 meters across the road on 21 November.

The bombings also took a considerable toll on the homes and businesses nearby, including the Gaza bureau of Al Jazeera.

More than 50 percent of the private medical center in the Abu Shabaan building was destroyed, said Dr. Naim Shariff, 42, owner of the Benoon In Vitro Fertilization clinic.

Two weeks after the bombing tore apart the sixth floor and ravaged the fifth floor, Shariff put new panes in the windows, ordered new specialized machinery, and re-opened for clients.

“The problem with replacing my machines and equipment is that most of it doesn’t exist in Gaza. It takes months to arrive and costs more money than it would elsewhere,” he said.

“What else can I do but start again? There’s no insurance here for war damages.”

Three floors down, a privately-run dentist’s office has replaced broken windows and office glass, and installed a new reclining dental chair in place of the destroyed one.

“The walls were completely black before,” says Doaa Moshaawi, 32, a dentist. “Everything was damaged here, all the jars of medicine and instruments we use in our practice were destroyed.”

The blown-out Abu Shabaan building, and the testimonies of its tenants, add to the mounting body of evidence that Israel’s bombing sprees in the Gaza Strip disproportionately affect civilian property, homes and lives.

The Geneva Conventions prohibit attacks that will lead to “loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof.” All of these things are inevitable in the overcrowded Gaza Strip.

Civilians in the line of fire

Around the corner and down the street a few hundred meters, Hani Lulu, 60, watched as a laborer reinstalled his sweets shop’s metal security door which was blown off its hinges when Israeli bombs targeted the Saraya, Gaza’s main security complex, just opposite the shop.

A one-year-old baby named Rama al-Shandi was killed in those blasts on 19 November, which also left four policemen and four civilians injured.

Lulu has learned from experience. During the Israeli attacks on Gaza in 2008-2009, Israel rained bombs down on the Saraya, causing extensive damage to surrounding residences and businesses.

“We left our home when the Israeli attacks on Gaza started this time,” he said, “so only our building was hurt, not us.”

“There’s no reason to bomb here,” he said. “It’s only the civilians nearby that suffer. We’ve done nothing wrong but the Israelis bomb us.”

Buildings used by Gaza’s interior ministry in Tel al-Hawa, Gaza City, were bombed on two separate occasions on 16 November, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, causing extensive damage to the surrounding homes, schools and to al-Quds hospital, which stands several hundred meters away (“Weekly report on Israeli human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory,” 22 November 2012).

“Like an earthquake”

Abu Mohammed, 58, lives opposite the destroyed ministry complex. He and neighbors said the first round of four bombings occurred in the early morning hours.

Then, around 9:30pm, Israeli warplanes struck the ministry again with another four bombs. This time, “it was like an earthquake,” according to Abu Mohammed.

A newly-built school run by the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) and the nearby government-run public school less than ten meters from the ministry buildings were damaged, both with numerous rooms blown out.

Five multi-story apartment buildings across from the ministry are now mere skeletons, completely uninhabitable. “What does this paper have to do with anything related to Israeli security?” Abu Mohammed asked, shaking a sheaf of papers he has pulled from the rubble. “They processed birth certificates, death and marriage certificates here [in the ministry]. Passports, ID cards.”

“There were 15 people living in my home. Where are we supposed to go?”

Pitch black

At the end of the row of destroyed homes stands a solemn Abu Yusef, 42, soft-spoken but equally devastated. “It was a civilian area, the ministry provided papers for us. The salaried people working for the government are civilians,” he said.

“The Israelis had bombed this area before, so we knew that they’d do it again. They want to hit civilian areas.” More than 40 persons lived in the three-story apartment in front of which Abu Yusef stands. A sofa pokes out of a gaping hole in the wall of a third-floor room.

“Cement was flying, steel was flying. For more than a half hour after the bombing, it was pitch black, no electricity. I couldn’t do anything, couldn’t move an inch.”

Gaza’s ministry of health reports that 174 Palestinians were killed, including 34 children, 11 women and 19 elderly. Approximatley 1,400 were injured, including 465 children, 254 women, and 91 elderly persons.

The latest round of attacks on Gaza included the bombing of the al-Dalu family in their home, killing ten family members and two neighbors.

“Most of them arrived with their brain matter outside of their skulls,” Dr. Ayman al-Sahabani, head of al-Shifa hospital’s emergency department, said.

“The majority of injuries we dealt with included shrapnel throughout the body, hemorrhaging, multiple fractures, amputated lower or upper limbs, internal bleeding, damaged internal organs. On the second day, I received an 11-month-old child who was 95 percent burned but still breathing. I couldn’t do anything for him, he died within 20 minutes.”

Four-year-old Reham Nabaheen didn’t survive the 21 November drone attack outside her home in the Nusseirat area of Gaza. She was dead on arrival at the hospital, with shrapnel lodged in her brain.

With less than an hour to go before a ceasefire was enforced later that day, Nader Abu Maghaseeb, 14, was en route to a shop to buy food for his younger siblings when he became the target of a drone strike in his village, Deir al-Balah.

The vast majority of those killed and maimed were civilians who did not participate in resistance activities, proving that, once again, Palestinian civilians were the primary targets of Israeli bombs.

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