Published on 19 Nov 2012

Death on display as Gaza mourns its dead

We in the west tend to hide the fact of death. In Gaza it is all on display.

So, from early in the morning the men will gather at the low, whitewashed building which is the mortuary at Shifa Hospital.

Inside, a room with a stainless steel table and overhead surgical lamps is where post-mortems take place for any unusual causes of death. They are looking for possible use of phosphorous, depleted uranium munitions and the like.

The table slopes to a sinkhole to drain away the human fluid. In this echoing place people become the statistics of war.

(Funeral procession for 12 killed in Gaza City. Credit: Alex Thomson)

Next door, wrapped in sheets or the green flag of Hamas, refrigerated bodies, heads uncovered, are pulled from the fridges for the relatives to see.

This morning, hundreds crowd the entrance, the steps, car park and even the roof.

Guttural shouts of men crying with grief yet screaming “Allahu Akbar” – God is great – mark another wrapped body borne aloft to a waiting truck or car. There are no coffins.

(Diggers at Jamal Dalou’s house where at least nine people were killed yesterday in Israeli airstrike. Credit: Alex Thomson)

This morning, some of the bodies were the small children of the Dalou family.

They are carried aloft on shoulder from the mortuary to waiting cars – men, women and children.

Across town the giant diggers have paused. They say there is still another 17-year-old in the rubble. The bodies of the four children are  carried high into a house opposite. People kiss their exposed heads.

(Abdullah Dalou believed to be only survivor, overcome by grief, walking to funeral. Credit: Alex Thomson)

Outside the mosque they pray in the street in their hundreds. Abdullah Dalou who survived the airstrike is supported by friends, unable to stand in his grief.

Even at the graveside, the violence continues. Smoke off an incoming shell rises a few hundred yards from the cemetery wall. Presently, another salvo of rockets from Gaza roars overhead, leaving vapour trails pointing north, to Israel.

(Praying in street outside full mosque at funeral for Dalou family. Credit: Alex Thomson)

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9 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:


    I have yet to hear of “no fly zones” or “safe havens” to help protect the people of Gaza. Why are US and European leaders silent on a measure they urge elsewhere?

    Meanwhile, there is seemingly no end to the Israeli fascist bombardment.

    If they are so intent on peace then let the Israelis call a unilateral halt and request a UN peace keeping force. Then agree to return to their legal borders. Then agree to stop their embargo and isolation of the Palestinian people. Then dismantle all the illegal settlements denounced by the UN. Then denounce those who call for Yeretz Israel. These steps would help isolate responsibility for any military action from the occupied lands.

    The Israelis have overwhelming brutal military strength compared to the Palestinians. Their present assault confirms it.

    But the US and Europeans stand by and mouth nothing but platitudes while actively interfering in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. (You have to see the two faced behavious of the war criminal Blair to believe it). Why this blatant hypocrisy? What are Western interests in this matter? Why should we believe a word they say in this or any other matter?

    Please stay safe.

  2. Andrew says:

    Nice piece, suggestions of Israeli war crimes, but, of course no proof! Just read (elsewhere of course, no truth to be had on C4!) that your accusation that Israel had targetted the media on last night’s report was a fabrication – turns out the house was in fact occupied by Ramez Harb, a leading figure in the Al Quds Brigades! Why are the international media all camped out in the same building as senior Palestinian fighters? They’re using you as human shields you schmucks!

    The real question, which you will not ask, is why Hamas started a war they cannot win? Why do Hamas hold their population is such contempt as to use them a cannon fodder merely to stoke your incomprehending fury?

    Where are the pictures and bloggers from within Israel? Why no reports of the damage done there? Given your blatant support for the fascists of Hamas why no ‘We’re all Hamas now’ t-shirts for sale on your site? Without any balance aren’t you just Jew-baiting?

    1. andrew says:

      your super hi tec rockets just murdered those innocent children .

  3. Trevor Griffiths says:

    I am getting tired of the biased reporting from Channel 4 on this conflict. Here is a report from an Israeli on the receiving end of Hamas rockets:-

    “Sixteen Gazans have been killed over the past day, and 51 injured. Six of these fatalaties were members of one family who had refused to leave their home though warned by IDF text messages. Their home was located over an ammunition warehouse, while the husband was a Hamas designer and builder of terror rockets.

    In one case IAF bombed a Gazan soccer field. Though that attack might be interpreted by some as being ‘anti-sport,’ in reality it is because Hamas has been using the field for rocket launchings.”

    Not a chance of getting that information from Channel 4 News who are not set on informing us but are set on forming our opinions. This is not a news programme.

  4. Jeanne Kelly says:

    As devoted as I am to Channel 4 News it is a great pity that it appears to be spinning for Hamas.

    You have much sympathy for Gazans who are under attack by Israel but the Gazans bring it on themselves. They know they will receive a disproportionate response but provoke Israel anyway in order to augment their “victim” status which they know will become a media feeding frenzy.

    Why do you report only one side of this conflict? Rocket attacks on Israel happen every day of the year but we only hear about it when Israel runs out of patience and retaliates.

    The Palestinians and Gazans are not victims but the aggressors, they simply need to stop attacking Israel,

  5. Colin Meade says:

    The reason “death is on display” in Gaza is that the Palestinian “militant” factions place military installations in civilian areas, attack Israel from those installations and then use the civilian casualties caused by Israeli retaliation for propaganda purposes (witness the number of cameras visible in at least one of the scenes in your TV report this evening). The death-displays are media events, aimed at us, via you. Do you understand this and your role in it?

  6. Ian Thatcher says:

    I find the use of the term ‘fascist’ applied to both sides unhelpful and misleading. For me it is clear that the past is so wrapped up in a present that is itself complex enough that above all else we need an international and historically nuanced approach. It is obvious that Israel has no solution while surely it cannot maintain a security policy based mainly on force. We need statesmen like Vaclav Havel who apologised to the Germans for the way in which they were expelled from the Czech lands at the end of World War II. Has Israel, for example, really such a politician who could address Palestinian displacement around the creation of Israel? From a bunker mentality one will only breed more hatred and contempt, of which there is far too much.

  7. Philip says:

    You’re a retard Andrew. Hamas never started this war. The was started when Israel blockaded the Gaza strip. This is a form of attack on a population. If you don’t allow humans to live freely then how do you expect them to behave. Gaza is like an open prison. I don’t blame Hamas for firing rockets at a terror state like Israel. I’d do the same. Why are Israel allowed to control the sea and skys of Gaza, because the Jewish lobby in America allows it. Israel bans cement from entering the strip. I can easily buy this from any DIY store. How is this fair. Israel is choking the life out of the Gaza strip and then when the poor people respond with poorly contructed rockets Israel responds with fighter jets provided by the USA. How is that fair.
    Andrew, if you have one of those Hamas t-shirts i’d happily buy it off you.

  8. Joe says:

    My feelings lie in between the two above.

    Philip Edwards’ vision of a peaceful resolution is something most decent people would like to see. It recognises many injustices, and I join his cynical despair at Western “leaders” who have tied themselves in knots of hypocrisy yet strut about as if they are educating us on humanity and “freedom”. However, any truce must also obviously include a hard and fast ceasefire by Hamas. Their homemade rockets are hitting Israel and killing, injuring, and terrifying innocent civilians. An innocent person killed is an affront to humanity, regardless of their religion or ethnicity. They are also trading blows with an enemy who they can not defeat militarily, and this is putting their people directly in the line of fire (justifiable fire, or not; whatever you believe, they are dying all the same).

    Outside intervention is required to save this situation from developing into an atrocity no-one wants to contemplate. The level of public feeling on this is tremendously high. Where are the people we have elected to represent us? We want their unequivocal condemnation of the killing of children and innocent unarmed people, and we want their efforts to make it stop. They are failing us. Again.

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