Little Baghdad’ in Gaza – bombs, fear and rage
By Amira Hass, Haaretz Correspondent ( Last update – 13:52 28/12/2008 )
There are many corpses and wounded, every moment another casualty is added to the list of the dead, and there is no more room in the morgue.
Relatives search among the bodies and the wounded in order to bring the dead quickly to burial. A mother whose three school-age children were killed, and are piled one on top of the other in the morgue, screams and then cries, screams again and then is silent.
Mustapha Ibrahim saw all this on Saturday at one in the afternoon, at Shifa Hospital in Gaza. As a field investigator for a human rights organization, he thought he’d been immunized, but nothing prepared him for what he saw. Wounded people whose situation was less than serious were asked to leave Shifa, in order to free up beds.
Dr. Haidar Eid is a lecturer in Cultural Studies at Al-Aqsa University. He, too, saw the bodies and the wounded on Saturday. Also the children whose limbs had been amputated.
“To pick a time like this, 11:30 [A.M.], to bomb in the hearts of cities, this is terrible. This choice was intended to cause as large a massacre as possible,” he summed up.
Abu Muhammad was 200 meters from the hospital, when an awful sound was heard: Three large police centers which were bombed, were located close to the hospital. “Within seconds, this was a little Baghdad, bombs everywhere, smoke, fire, people not knowing where to hide. Fear everywhere, and rage and hatred,” he said.
He himself ran to his daughters’ school, like tens of thousands of other parents in the Strip. From 11:25 until 11:30, as some 50 warplanes bombed their targets, hundreds of thousands of children were in the streets. Some were coming from the first shift of classes, others were going to the second. “In the schoolyard I saw 500 frightened girls, crying. They did not know me, but clung to me,” Abu Muhammad related.
In the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood alone, there were 43 fatalities. One mourning tent was set up for all of them. Most of them were young policemen who had joined the civilian police and were killed during the course commencement ceremony.
Training camps of the Izz-al Din al-Qassam and interrogation and detention centers were deserted when they were bombed. But police centers in the Strip, which give services to people, were teeming. No one believed that they would be bombed.
In the afternoon, they were still looking for bodies in the debris. Khalil Shahin rushed to the police station in the center of the Strip. “A huge building, and all of it on the floor,” he said. Some 30 people were killed there. He knew that his nephew, a civilian, was killed when he went to clear up some matter at the station.
At first, teacher Umm Salah thought the explosion was a sonic boom. The whole building shook, all the glass, but the smoke and the clouds of dust, and the wails of ambulances, made clear that something much more horrible had taken place. The glass wounded a number of pupils. There were those who cried, there were those who were silent.
She found her son in the maelstrom in the street. He had been taking a math test when the bombing began. They went back home together, finding his younger brother with their 70-year-old grandmother. The grandmother tried to hide her fear as she took care of her grandchildren.
“There’s been no electricity, nor gas, nor flour or bread nearly all of the past week,” Umm Salah said. “And suddenly the electricity came back. I turned on the television, I saw the images, I turned it off and sent the kids to do their homework.”