1 Aug 2014

In the midst of Gaza’s bloody ‘truce’

Warning: this page includes some images that may be distressing.

I’ve just seen what a ceasefire means, on a road east of Khan Younis. It means young men getting carried along dusty roads in blankets, with sniper wounds.

It means a stream of people on foot with their belongings. It means more civilian killings, apparently by Israeli troops, and not just of the accidental kind.

To get to Khozaa you have to go down a single track, lined by smashed houses. None was left standing. The smell of dead bodies, some there since the start of the war, hangs thick in the air.

People had gone in, at the ceasefire, to retrieve the dead and visit their farms – this is open land.

But as the long-dead came back, swollen and black in blankets, they were overtaken by faster running groups carrying new casualties.

A young man hit by a sniper bullet, head raised as they carried him aloft, trying to give the Palestinian peace salute. They slam him into an ambulance containing two dead and rotting bodies and speed off.

Read more: seven things about the military situation in Gaza

All around, on both sides of this track, there were impacts of shell fire. A group of men stopped me. Khozaa looks like a hurricane’s hit it, one told me. What can you hear? Says another: artillery and snipers.

He is correct. We drive to the main hospital in Khan Younis, and there is chaos. The doctor is calm at first but then starts ranting: “We have no beds, no blood, no equipment, we can’t cope.

There is a lot of odeima, a lot of internal injuries.” There is pandemonium outside but in the triage room they go calmly through the injuries of those brought in.

I saw a 12-year-old boy with blast injuries – eardrums bleeding, no wounds on his body.

I saw a baby, about three months old, with shrapnel wounds to its arm – it will live but nobody knows who it belongs to.

I saw a boy aged eight or nine in shock on a trolley, hooked to an oxygen cylinder but with no oxygen mask. I saw a young man with a bullet wound in his side, and another with a bullet wound in his leg.

I saw a woman on a trolley on a drip, still conscious, but with a bullet entry wound to her temple. She will die.

I saw the bodies of maybe six or seven civilians arrive, the old, discovered bodies mixed with the newly dead.

Read more: Gaza live: Israeli soldier ‘may have been captured’

As we drove back, on the road north to Gaza City, you could see the dust of Israeli tanks in the distance. Three times shell fire came close enough to the main road to smell the cordite.

We are back at Gaza City now and safe but what I saw followed a fairly consistent pattern: shelling into farmland where Palestinians were trying to return, and aimed small-arms fire at civilians.

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