The one S was on didn’t have any luck, the road was completely barricaded and they weren’t allowed to leave their vehicles, so they shouted from where they were but weren’t able to make contact with anyone, though they’d been getting emergency calls from the area. S came back startled by how close the army was. It’s supposed to be his night off (between two 24 hours shifts) but he now doesn’t want to leave the hospital, so he’s just keeping on going.
Just now (a little after midnight, into the 13th now) two of the medics have made another co-ordination with Israel via the Red Cross to go into an occupied area to fetch a woman in labour. This *might* mean they’re allowed to reach her and *might* mean they’re not shot at while they try, but neither is guaranteed.
Today I went with S to eat at his family’s house in the Tela Howa area. His sister R gave me a hat and scarf she knitted herself (there seemed to be a general opinion I wasn’t wearing enough warm clothes), his sister-in-law W interpreted for me, and his mother not only made me herbal tea for my cough, involving babunage (chamomile), maramiya (sage), and more puzzingly, zatar (a spicy powder normally eaten with bread), but then filled a thermos for me to take away with me.
During my visit, his cousin arrived. She and her husband had to leave their Shayjaiee house after it was attacked with tank shells. She just went to look at it now and was describing the fire damage to the family, the sight of which had clearly left her shocked and fragile. She was in her early twenties, if that, and as she sat quietly beside me, tears rolling down her cheeks, she held a cushion over her belly. She is pregnant.
I was talking to D today, who is also from the Tela Howa area. She is a lively second year medical student who volunteers with the Red Crescent Disaster Management team. Her family lived near a Ministry Building there, which was attacked on December 30. 13 bombs in a row were dropped on the Ministry building, causing all the glass in their apartment to break and all the doors to break apart, even the mirrors and the cupboard doors. Her family had gone to the window to see what was happening, and the impact threw them all across the room. They have moved out to stay with the relatives of their neighbours, who have taken in 3 families total. D says they are lucky because they have the basement all to themselves.
I was showing S some photos of narrowboats today, including one of J’s boat in London with lots of plants and a wind generator and solar panel, plus a heron perched on top. “Gaza doesn’t have beautiful things,” he said thoughtfully. “Just what we see in pictures or on television.”
I continue to give a crazy amount of interviews via the phone. I do best when asked to simply describe what I see around me. South Africa radio tend to want me to offer political analysis, when all I can honestly say is – “I don’t know what the hell Israel is trying to do.”
EB tells me that about 25 Egyptian ambulances have arrived to Al Shifa hospital, delivering sorely needed medical resources, and – they hope – evacuating patients for whom Al Shifa doesn’t have the facilities, out to Egypt.
Tonight in the hospital are 3 tiny new babies, triplets. They are sleeping soundly in their incubators, despite the tankfire that comes ever nearer. For them alone I don’t want to leave the hospital now; we have heard some terrible rumours of what has been done to babies, apparently deliberately, and there are some grim pictures. I was helping with the English translation of the testimony of the surviving Sammouni family members whose house was bombed after they were put in it by the Israeli soldiers (will post it as soon as possible), and how one, a 20 year old mother, found her baby had been killed by shrapnel while she held him.
Someone was talking the other day about how the high birth rate amongst Palestinians really worries Zionist Israelis who greatly fear being outnumbered in this region. I made some comment about how families are losing not one but several children due to houses being bombed etc. And suddenly I thought – what if this attack is partly aimed at killing as many children as it can? Is it really possible someone in Israel has sat down and calculated how to do that? I just can’t begin to think about this.
I am far more worried about being arrested than being killed. I would like to think I am not important enough for the army to bother, and if they come into the hospital I can monitor and document and challenge their behaviour if need be. (Cos a load of guys with guns are really going to listen to me, right?) But I couldn’t bear to be taken out of this small beleaguered place, and if occupation lasts a long time, one international in it for the long term is more useful than one who got arrested 5 minutes after the soliders arrived. I should probably decide this before the moment arrives for fight or flight. And I probably won’t.
Now I’m going to undo all the good work of the herbal tea by smoking (in Arabic they say “drinking”) shisha with the Distaster lads amongst the broken glass of the next door Red Crescent social centre.
F from Jabalia replied to me today: “hello dear, we’re fine, but the rest of the family r at [UNWRA temporary accomodation] schools and my uncle is at the area of the incursion and he’s still alive but there is no exactly news about him. Many thanks for ur efforts to help us.”
There are a several of my friends I’ve texted to and received no replies. I remind myself what a hard time the Jawahl phone network is having functioning.