By Yousef Ghaben, Freelancer from Gaza
It was the 21st day of the Israeli Occupations horrific offensive on Gaza in 2014, when my Italian friends Francesca Mannocchi, Andrea Vignali and I, went to Shifa Hospital, the largest health facility in Gaza, to report on humanitarian concerns facing victims of international war crimes violations, during the assault.
The number of innocent civilians being targeted, especially women and children, was rapidly escalating. People’s hope for an end to the “war” had started to vanish. No one could hide from their eyes the glossed over effects of despair, mounted on indescribable traumas. We were raw and desperate for help. But there was nothing we could do amid that horrible massacre, without an international protection force. So we did what we could anyway.
We moved to the children’s section of Shifa Hospital, where 80 wounded children were being treated. The nurses took us to a far room in that section, where there was real tragedy. Four little ones were inside, their skin burned almost entirely, with eyes opened and watching us while we stared back at them. It took us little time to absorb the shock so we could tolerate that scene.
Doctors said these kids needed urgent, specialized surgeries in order to be saved. One of the kids, named Mohammed Bradan, was 8 years old. He had lost his mother and two brothers during the attack. An Israeli F16 fighter jet had bombed the yard behind their home.The entire family flew into panic and rushed out of their home, believing that a “Tap on the Roof” warning bomb had hit the house. As soon as the family was outside their front door, an Israeli drone targeted them with an anti-individual rocket, killing five members of this family, and critically wounding the others. Mohammed was found beneath his mother’s body. He lost his right eye and needed 3 specialized surgeries. Mohammed was moaning ”Mama. Mama.” But it was his aunt who answered him every time.
Soha was another innocent little girl, suffering from severe wounds. Just 5-year-old, she too lost her mother. Soha’s entire face was etched with the deepest, inexplicable pain. Her elder sister told us the terrifying details. They were at home when the Israeli military called them, announcing they had just 5 minutes to leave their house, before they strike it from an F16 fighter jet.
They were terribly scared and mother gave Soha to her elder sister, shouting at her to get out of the house, now! Mother was deeply confused, she was searching for her son, Ali, who was somewhere in the house. She had to save him. The elder sister was just out the front door, when the Israelis bombed her house. The force of the bomb threw the two sisters into the air. The elder sister was slightly injured but little Soha sustained serious wounds in her head and her back. Their mother did not make it out in time. She and Ali were killed when the house was targeted and destroyed.
Then we visited another room in the children’s section of Shifa Hospital. There was a sad, veiled woman weeping over her two children, aged 7 and 13. They sustained severe injuries when Israel fired artillery bombs into the children’s bedroom.
“There were 8 children in the room when a shell fired by Israeli artillery exploded inside. All kids were wounded. They were treated and went home. But these two are in serious condition. They need surgeries not available in Gaza, due to the poor capabilities in our hospitals, ” said the mother.
As always, we were tormented by what we had seen. We finished and left, but I started feeling that something was wrong.
I said Goodbye to my friends and journeyed to Kamal Adwan hospital, where I used to report from. When I reached my destination, I found that I lost my ID. I was overwhelmed because it’s very important, especially in wartime, to identify myself as a journalist. A friend said I can get an alternative ID from the Civil Defense office quickly, due to war time. The Civil Defense office was based in Shifa hospital, so I had to return.
I went to Shifa the next day but I found the Civil Defense office had moved to another place. I got a little frustrated so I sat down in a chair in the yard of the hospital. Suddenly I saw an old friend. He is the nerve Doctor, Rami Abadla. I called him to say hello. We talked little, then there was the surprise. Doctor Rami said he is traveling to Germany next week with some critically wounded children for treatment.
At that point, I told him about the children we had met the previous day.
“You have to provide me with their data as soon as possible so I can take them with me” he replied.
“Immediately,” I answered.
I forgot about everything, including my ID and fear of an Israeli drone strike. Quickly, I left to Kamal Adwan hospital and searched for the data. I sent the children’s records to Dr. Rami. He confirmed to me that all of them would be treated in Germany.
If there was anything unspeakable at that time, it was my joy at knowing these children would finally receive treatment.