Stories from Gaza

On the 8th of September, Israeli occupying forces made an incursion into the Jabaliya refugee camp - now home to 80,000 Palestinian refugees and their descendents for the past 56 years. The operation went on for three long days.

Day 1: September 8

In the first few hours of the incursion 4 people were killed and tens of others were injured, many of them seriously. According to physicians who tended to the wounded the Israeli soldiers targeted the chest, abdomen and lower limbs, of boys who were throwing stones at the army tanks and bulldozers while they demolished homes and razed agricultural land. 30 houses were destroyed — 10 completely and 20 partially — which left at least 200 people homeless. The youngsters were protesting in their own way against the presence of the occupying forces in their town, some of them didn’t live to tell the tale.

Day 2: September 9th, 10AM

On my way to Al-Awda hospital I paid a visit to Al-Assria medical and community center (both hospital and medical center are run by the Union of Health Work Committees). The aim of my visit was to watch a rehearsal by the Al-Assria folklore dancing group. The kids are preparing for a tour in Britain organized by the Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign, where they will perform the traditional Palestinian Dabka dance.

Verses from the Quran were emanating from loudspeakers outside indicating one of the many funerals for the previous day’s martyrs. The boys and girls were practicing seriously but enthusiastically, but they could not resist joking childishly about a member of their group who couldn’t come to the rehearsal because the Israeli army was blocking his way due to the army presence nearby.

The kids danced to traditional Palestinian Dabka music, but at the same time they endeavored to keep the music down so as not to offend the people at the nearby funeral.

I finally decided against going to Al-Awda hospital after they called me to say that there were Israeli snipers monitoring the road to the hospital and it was too dangerous an undertaking.

Day 2: September 9th, 12 Noon

As I left Jabaliya, amidst the carnage Na’ima Naser from the nearby village of Beit Hanoun went into labor. Na’ima was pregnant with quadruplets as a result of IVF treatment after 16 years of infertility. During the last month of her pregnancy Beit Hanoun was besieged by the occupying army for 42 days, so Na’ima was unable to receive regular antenatal care, which had an added importance due to the large nature of her pregnancy.

When she went into labor during the Jabaliya incursion, even normal the seven minute drive to Al-Awda hospital became a dangerous journey because the army was operating close to the hospital. Despite all the odds she gave birth to 4 beautiful babies, 1 girl (Heba) and 3 boys (Mohammed, Abdel Kareem and Bader Eddin)

Day 3: September 10, the aftermath

The total death toll after the withdrawal of the army was 9 killed and 150 injured, at least 100 of the injured were children. Al-Awda hospital alone received 89 casualties –- including 45 chidren -– in addition to one health worker who was targeted by the army while on duty.

During its three day operation the Israeli army severely damaged the water and telecommunications infrastructure in the area; needless to say this made it extremely difficult for residents to contact the emergency services to evacuate the wounded to the Al-Awda hospital nearby. Furthermore the disrupted water supply was an extra addition to the suffering to the people in the incursion area.

As the days go by I realize how remarkable the Palestinian people in Jabaliya, Nablus, Beit Hanoun, Rafah and elsewhere in Palestine are. They do their best to go on with their lives despite the war that has been imposed upon them by the Israeli occupation. Despite it all, life goes on, they sing and dance, build schools and get educations, train and compete in the international sporting competitions, the Olympics and the World Cup qualifiers to name a few.

I look at all this and dream of the day when the occupation ends the Palestinians receive the justice they have been awaiting for 56 years.

Dr. Mona El-Farra works at the Union of Health Work Committees (Arabic site) in Gaza.