24 Jul 2014

Gaza's 'Birthplace of saints and death-yard of angels'

I can’t get her out of my mind. Two year old Nema. Her broken skull and fractured nose have imposed two vast round suppurating panda sized blobs effectively closing her tiny eyes.

Since she was blown up in an Israeli artillery barrage five days ago, she has not uttered a sound. She is mute, whether forever, no one knows.

And Noradin, playing in a crowded street, hit by shrapnel from an Israel missile fired from an F16. In that explosion 45 people were injured, many of them children, two were killed.


Finally, for the moment, Maha, her back shattered, her face bruised. She is shrivelled beneath a rag of a sheet, the dirt from the street still clinging to her feet. She is just seven years old.


I am wandering through the dense maze that is the honeycomb of children’s wards on the second and third floors of Gaza’s remarkable al-Shifa Hospital.

This is the birth place of saints and the death yard of angels.

The saints are the doctors from all over the world who are dealing with the bloody consequences of this war. The angels are the innocent children too broken by battle to survive.

Dr Madds Gilbert, a professor of emergency medicine from Norway, tells us that stocks of pain relief have sunk below what he calls the ‘red line’. Yet despite the horrendous challenge, this hospital functions superbly amid the wreckage of war.

He tells me that 166 children have been killed 1,310 children wounded – but that is changing by the hour. He adds that 695 adults ave been killed and 4,519 injured.On the Israeli side 32 soldiers and three civilians have died.

The doctor says some of the children he is caring for are so profoundly damaged, so needy of massive operations, amputations, brain surgery, spinal surgery that some may yet not pull through to viable life.


Israel has proved one bitter truth. There is no such thing as a forensic or even a surgical attack. In this densely packed slither of land, fenced off from the rest of the world, it has proved impossible to ‘kill a militant’, without taking out a child, twenty children, or a grandmother, aunt, cousin, cousin’s cousin.

Gazan society is a construct of huge families interwoven across the territory. It is hard to pin-prick one man – kill him, and leave. You can obliterate his house, and he most probably he wont be there, but his seventeen relatives will be, and at the end of the attack they will be beyond life.

Finally, I have been stranded in Gaza City these three days. It was too dangerous to move far. Yet some of the worst of the carnage has been south of here, where no journalist has yet ventured.

But blessed Youtube, combined with short bursts of phone and electricity supply have enabled locals’ pictures to reach the outside world and we journalists to verify and then weave them into our reports.

The world is witnessing what is happening in Gaza. There is bound to be judgement.

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