As I write, Israeli jets are bombing Zeitoun and Rimal in central Gaza City. The family I am staying with has moved into the internal corridor of their home to shelter from the bombing. The windows almost blew out, just five minutes ago, as a massive explosion rocked the house. Apache helicopters are hovering above us, while F16s sear overhead.
UN radio reports say one blast was a target close to the main gate of Al Shifa hospital – Gaza and Palestine’s largest medical facility – another was a plastics factory. More bombs continue to pound the Strip. Sirens are wailing on the streets outside. Regular power cuts plunge the city into blackness every night and tonight is no exception. Only, perhaps, tonight is the darkest night people have seen in their lifetimes.
Over 280 people have been killed and more than 400 injured but hospitals are overloaded and unable to cope. Doctors at Shifaa had to scramble together 10 makeshift operating theatres to deal with the wounded. The hospital’s maternity ward transformed their operating room into an emergency theatre. Shifaa only has 12 beds in their intensive care unit, they had to make space for 27 today.
These attacks come on top of existing conditions of humanitarian crisis: a lack of medicines, bread, flour, gas, electricity, fuel and freedom of movement. There is a shortage of medicine – over 105 key items are not in stock, and blood and spare generator parts are desperately needed. Shifaa’s main generator is the life support machine of the entire hospital. It’s the apparatus keeping the ventilators, monitors and lights turned and the injured alive.
Shifaa’s head of casualty department, Dr Maowiye Abu Hassanyeh explained, ‘We had over 300 injured in over 30 minutes. There were people on the floor of the operating theatre, in the reception area, in the corridors; we were sending patients to other hospitals. Not even the most advanced hospital in the world could cope with this number of casualties in such a short space of time’.
As Israel Defense Forces (IOF) Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi said this morning, ‘This is only the beginning’.
But this isn’t the beginning, this is an ongoing policy of collective punishment and killing with impunity, practised by Israel for decades. It is at its most intensified level today. But the weight of dread, revenge and isolation hangs thick over Gaza. People are asking, ‘If this is only the beginning, what will the end look like?’Ewa Jasiewicz is currently Gaza project coordinator for the Free Gaza Movement, www.FreeGaza.org