Let me start with the good news. I found it surprisingly destabilising having to evacuate the hospital. Since the strikes began, I have spent more nights here than anywhere else, and it began to feel like coming ‘home’ each time I arrived, especially with the welcome I unfailingly received. There is a sense of order in a hospital, of safety and care and compassion. When a handful of us came back to mind the hospital at about 3 am after evacuation, with the remains of the fire still resisting the fire-fighters, it felt very bleak. Beds were scattered in the road; inside, things were overturned and broken after the hurried leaving, the place was covered with mud. In most rooms there were waterfalls. Two out of three of our buildings were blackened and smouldering.
I wandered about in the operations room, clearing things up so it wouldn’t look so sad. If I felt displaced, when I had a perfectly good flat to go to, what about all the medical folks here whose homes have been destroyed in the last weeks, for whom this was their only warm, comfortable, safe place?
But yesterday the Red Crescent met and decided they wanted to work from Al-Quds again, and even better, the hospital will be open on Monday. I forgot to allow for the fact that they have no choice. Today I arrived to a completely revived atmosphere on the ground floor – lights working again, most things back in place, mud washed away, and disaster team boys sliding around their room on a cloth to dry their floor. I haven’t been to visit the bits of the hospital that were burning two days ago. Right now I think I’ll just enjoy what I see. Some of the medics are making us a potato chip dinner. The triplets are now at Nasser children’s hospital, by the way.
So you remember I wrote this about Wed morning Jan 14:
“While there, heard shouting, went up stairs to see medic S covered in blood, he had just carried a little girl in from the street who snipers had shot in face and abdomen. We saw her father fall on the hospital stairs, having been shot in the leg. Mother was panicking, shouting there was another girl left behind. S, I and other medics went out to get her, found her not far away, S took her on his shoulders into the hospital. The other medics and I realised they were just the beginning of a stream of desperate people fleeing their buildings, many of which were on fire.”
This was the Batran family. Faddel al Batran, 54, was shot in the leg. Yasmine, 12, was the girl we went to bring in. Haneen, 9, was the one shot in the face and abdomen: I knew she had been taken straight into surgery at Al-Quds. today I found out that she was transferred to Al-Shifa and died shortly afterwards.
Last night they bombed another UNRWA school in which homeless people had taken refuge in Beit Lahia. There are 36 wounded, including 14 children. Two boys aged 3 and 8 are dead. John Ging of UNRWA was on the TV being coldly furious. But as I type (I’ll be reading this out over the phone to the UK for uploading) a truce has apparently begun. It is strangely quiet. Everyone desperately wants to hope it’ll have some meaning.