Gaza: Why? The question my 11 year old son asks me, said Dr Al Sahbani
Report – By Julie Webb-Pullman
Today I visited Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, and interviewed Dr Ayman Al-Sahbani, Director of Emergency Department.
The situation is dire, from any perspective. The last week of Israeli attacks have seen patient numbers in the
emergency department more than double in Al Shifa hospital alone, to 700 in 24 hours.
Supplies of essentials such as sutures have almost run out, with catgut having to be used inside and out – and only one
size available at that (40mm). There were a few packs of sterile gauze left, leaving them reliant on manual packs, and
but a handful of sterile gloves. Al Shifa is the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip, and probably has more supplies than
anyone else, so imagine the situation in the others, he commented.
Dr Ayman Al-Sahbani describes how medical supplies are running out at his critical care unit in Gaza.
Dr Ayman came close to tears several times as he showed me around the emergency department and the critical care unit.
“We want the world to know what is happening here in Gaza,” he said. “We need to know what these weapons are. We have
twenty children in here, with injuries we have never encountered before, even in Operation Cast Lead when we first saw
phosphorous burns. These weapons are even worse, they cause terrible burns, they sever feet and legs, and hands, they
fill the bodies with hundreds of small pieces of metal.”
Clinicians describe how victims are presenting with injuries from unknown new weapons.
Dr Ayman pulled back a curtain, “Here is a 13 year old boy who was playing football with his friends when they were
struck by an Israeli rocket, both his hands were blown off and his legs badly injured as well, and he has terrible
burns, and shrapnel all over his body."
"When they brought him in I thought he was dead, and then he cried out, “Ay mama” so we operated, several operations,
and five days later he is still alive. Will he ever play football again? I don’t know. Most of the victims have been
women and children, they are civilians. The question my 11 year old son asks me is why? Why does Israel attack us like
this? What can I answer?”
Clinicians allow Julie Webb-Pullman to report on the suffering experienced by the civilian victims of the
Israel/Palestine conflict as they are treated at the Critical Care Unit at Al Shifa Hospital, Gaza.
Some parents in the critical care unit asked that I not take pictures of their children, so the true horror of the
clinical reality remains burned only in the minds of their families, and the hospital staff. Like most of them, Dr Ayman
has been working almost non-stop since the attacks began last Thursday night. He has seen his own children for only one
hour in three days, but the images of the children he has treated in the past week leave little room for anything else.
“They arrive in pieces, some burned beyond recognition. We are doctors, we are humans, we just want to live our lives
freely, we want to do our jobs properly, we want our children to grow up in freedom, like in other countries. In other
countries children can play football, they can swim in pools, but her in Gaza when children play football, when they
swim or play they get bombed, killed, and amputated. What kind of life is that for a child?”
Looking around the critical care unit, at the mutilated limbs, the burns, the small bodies peppered with metal, the
bruised and battered faces, and the exhausted staff working to the rhythm of ventilators, beeping monitors, and the
constant slapping of a young man’s face to keep him responsive, I can understand the anguish of the doctors and nurses
working under such difficult conditions to save the lives of the young victims of Israel’s latest outrage.
Fadi Hamada makes a plea for assistance from New Zealand and the international community. And Ayman Al-Sahbani describes
why he agreed to show Julie Webb-Pullman through the critical care unit in Gaza.
And some more “Why?”s occur to me. Why is Israel’s security considered more important than that of these Gazan
chiidren? Why is the international community permitting the use of such weapons against civilian populations? And why is
it standing by and doing nothing, while civilians are once again being slaughtered by Israel in a blatant act of
collective punishment for the Eilat crimes they did not even commit?
Julie Webb-Pullman (click to view previous articles)
is a New Zealand based freelance writer who has reported for Scoop since 2003. She recently managed to get into Gaza
during a brief period when the Rafah Gate was open.