Last night was a quiet one in Jabbaliya. ‘Only’ six homes bombed into the ground, the market, again, maybe four lightly injured people – shrapnel to the face injuries – and no martyrs. Beit Hanoun saw a young woman, Nariman Ahmad Abu Owder, just 17, shot dead as she made tea in her family’s kitchen. It was 9pm in the Hay Amel area when witnesses reported ‘thousands’ of bullets shot by tanks onto homes in Azrah Street
We got a call to go to Tel Al Zater looking for the dead and injured, around 2am. ‘This area is dangerous, very very dangerous’, warned one volunteer rescuers, Mohammad al Sharif, as our ambulance bumped along sandy, lumpy ground, lighting up piles of burning rubbish, stray cats, political graffiti, and the ubiquitous strung out coloured sack cloth and stripy material in large thin squares, tenting the pavements. What is it? Protection, I am told, so that the surveillance planes won’t see the fighters. Palestinian body armour.
Mohammad and Ahmad Abu Foul, a civil defence medical services co-ordinator, told me they had been shot at by Israeli snipers yesterday. Mohammad had recounted the story, still counting his blessings, earlier on at the ambulance station. They’d gone hurtling over graves and tombstones to fetch casualties when Israeli snipers opened fire. They’d laid down flat on the ground until the firing stopped. Ahmad, 24, another rescuer here, told me he had been shot in the chest – in his bullet proof vest – close to the Atarturah area while trying to evacuate corpses three days ago. His brother, he had told me, had been injured 14 times working as a paramedic. ’14 times. Then he got hit by an Apache. Then it was serious. That took him out of work for a few months’, he explained.
Back to Tel Al Zater, we searched with micro-torches, sweeping over slabs of broken homes and free running water from freshly smashed pipes. A black goat was trapped in a rubble nest. Nothing, no one, ‘snipers’ on our minds. We ended up leaving with one casualty, lightly injured, more in shock that anything else. Explosions continued through the night. Abrupt slumps into concrete echoing around the hospital, like rapid beats to a taut drum skin.
This morning was a different story. I’ve been finding that the most missile-heavy times seem to be between 7-9am. I counted 20 strikes in those two hours this morning. I’d come to Mohammad’s house. He went straight to bed, exhausted. Id caught some sleep spread across the front seats of the rickety ambulance, waking up periodically to respond to calls. At Mohammad’s I did some badly overdue washing and went towards the roof with it. ‘Ewa, do you want to martyr yourself?’ said Sousou, Mohammad’s 19 year old sister, a bright sciences student unable to finish her studies due to her university – the Islamic University – having been bombed last week. Hanging out washing on the roof here is a potential act of suicide – there are stories of people having been shot dead on rooftops. Walking down the street to buy bread, also a potential act of suicide. Visiting family, going to the market, drinking tea in your own home – a potential act of suicide? In the end I do go up, with nine-year-old plucky Afnan, who hands me pegs nervously as we scan the skies periodically, while the murderous sneer of Israeli surveillance drones leers above us.
The call comes as soon as I get to Al Awda. It’s 11.40am. A strike in
Mahkema street, Zoumou, Eastern Jabbaliya. The streets of Moaskar Jabaliya are fuller than I’ve seen them for weeks. Fruit and vegetable sellers with wooden carts full of potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines, mountains of strawberries, bags of flour, plastic bottles of vegetable oil and rice, line the streets. The reason everyone’s here, exposed like this is because with the market being bombed, the streets have become the market.
We roar through manically, siren blaring, Abu Bassem, one of the oldest and most hyper ambulance drivers, yells hoarsely at anyone nonchalant enough to not notice the screaming column of ambulances zooming towards them, past broken buildings, debris covered streets, twisted tin can warehouses and rubble homes.
Out of the city, we’re met by a crowd running towards us with a blanket hump on the back of a donkey cart. Jumping out I see bloodied legs and arms sticking it out of it. ‘Shoohadda!’ (martyrs) yells the crowd running along with it, while others gesture wildly to go on, go on ahead. Jumping back in we get to the house where it all happened. A woman in her 50s, in black, has her arms around a large, lifeless woman. Pools of blood surround them. They’re cramped into a corner, the woman crying and clinging to her. We need to peel her away and lift the woman, cold, lifeless and shoeless, onto a stretcher. This is Randa Abid Rubbu, 38. Her relative or friend comes in too, unable to stand, unable to speak or move, we drag her up and she has to slump on the ambulance floor. Next we bring in Ahmad Mohammad Nuffar Salem, 21, with 16 shrapnel injuries, tearing at his own clothes in pain, they needed to be cut off.
Six members of the Abid Rubbu family were killed in the strike on their house. It happened at 11.40am. Ahmad, 21, explains ‘We were all eating together and then we were struck’. The consensus amongst paramedics was that it was a tank shell, although the family thought it was a shell from an Israeli navel vessel.
Mohammad Abid Rubbu, 50, explains to me, that in the night his other family homes were struck three times by F16 fighter jets. ‘Thirty of us spent the whole of last night hiding under ground, in the basement. Our whole street was full of fire. They (the Israelis) spent one and a half hours attacking us. They destroyed three of our family’s homes. All the martyrs today, they were underground with us last night.’
#233: Democracy on the Wing ● Thelma Walker on regional autonomy ● An interview with Clive Lewis ● The World Transformed ● Gender, sexuality and witchcraft ● The globalisation of ‘Asian horror’ ● A tribute to Dawn Foster ● Latest book reviews ● And much more!
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