Friday, January 16, 2009

The Army at the Door… 14 Minutes Only

"The army at the door…

Posted January 15, 2009 by talestotell

Short texts & updates from the blogger in Al-Quds hospital, Gaza City -

12:35 am GMT/02:35 Gaza time 16th January:

She has gone back to the hospital, as some of it is still left. There’s still lots of resources (medicines and the like there), and it feels like it’s important not to abandon it altogether, so five medics will stay the night there. The wards all seem to be destroyed, but it’s not clear about other areas.

Two teams, the Red Crescent Medics and the Red Crescent Disaster Management Team have already evacuated from own original building, and had been at the hospital for a few weeks now - it’s not clear where they will go or how they will function at this stage. The evacuation was to Al-Shifa hospital, though there’s no room for more patients or staff.

10:10 pm GMT/00:10 Gaza time:

The army shelled our hospital again, and we’re now evacuating everyone. We’re shifting base to a Red Cross building it seems. We’re taking people in beds, who can’t walk, and into dark streets where people were shot at earlier by snipers. 40-50 people were still sheltering in the basement, because they thought it safer than their own houses. By the time we left, bits of the ceiling were falling in on fire. Everyone is OK at the moment. There are explosions in the area still.

8:40 pm GMT/22:40 Gaza time:

The middle building of the hospital complex is on fire, following a hit by a shell on the top floor. The hospital tried to bring in the fire brigade, but the Israeli army told them they couldn’t. That particular building has no patients in, but is very close to the wards, and has a shared basement. The whole hospital is being evacuated as the fire is spreading too fast - we don’t know to where or in what kind of ’safety’, and there are conflicting reports of whether the Israeli army is present still on the ground in that area.

Update at 5:19 pm GMT/19:19 Gaza time:

There were two more rocket strikes on hospital around lunchtime, one went through the hospital wall into the pharmacy, the other hit the neighbouring cultural centre and medics went to put the fire out there.

One family were crying on the hospital stairs - they had fled their home in fear, but the Israeli snipers shot at them, and got the father in the leg, and one daughter with the bullet going through one cheek and out the other. Two medics went to get the other daughter, but more families were out in street trying to flee to the hospital, with grown men crying in fear. Many men had been taken from flats leaving only women & children. (Israeli) snipers and (Palestinian) fighters are active in the area too. No co-ordination was possible with Israeli forces. 500 people were got to safety with white flags, with people in Israel phoning through to government and it was press released that an international (the blogger) was present. It seems that this made the difference and though the army kept firing in the vicinity, not actually on people at that time.

There was not enough space in the hospital for all the terrified people, and a few Red Cross people arrived and were talking about a walking evacuation co-ordinated with Israeli army, with two ambulances for the people who couldn’t walk. People were being evacuated to an UNRWA school, but it’s next to continuing explosions and a massive cloud of black smoke near, from burning medical supplies & fuel tanks in the UN HQ compound. Many people went to other places in the end.

Blogger heading back to hospital now. Another update later, phone networks willing.

14.45 UK time - phones still down
Still no phone contact with the blogger - we will post something as soon as we hear.

1:05 pm GMT/15:05 Gaza time:
The phone network there is still not working, so no news I’m afraid of what’s happened. Will let you know when I hear anything.

9:45 am GMT/11:45 Gaza time:
Families from neighbouring buildings trying to run to safety to hospital from fire & gunfire. Most staff wearing masks due to fear of phosphorous gas attack.

9:04 am GMT/11:04 Gaza time:
fire out window 10 yards from babies in incubators, putting out fire with pots and pans as hose does not reach.

8:51 am GMT/10:51 Gaza time:
a rocket hit the back of the hospital, where there are only houses. A fire has started. Doctors are running to put it out. A second rocket hit the same point. Doctors are running back to care for their patients & away from the rockets.

7:26 am GMT/9:26 Gaza time:
Al-Quds hospital now has army outside, snipers next door, 50 hits near us during the night and 4 hits to us. Fire in apartments behind. Wounded kids near who we can’t collect though would like to ask if I can help with this.

Al-Quds hospital, Gaza City, located in the Tel al Huwa neighbourhood of Gaza, has been under attack by the Israeli army since 1:30 AM.

“Israeli snipers are shooting at families attempting to get to the hospital. They are frightened and have no where to go. At least two families have been shot at now, children have been wounded.”

“The hospital has received over 150 calls for help from people including many children in the surrounding area who have been wounded and are in desperate need of medical care. The Israeli army has surrounded the hospital and no one is able to get in or out.”

14 mins only
Posted January 16, 2009 by talestotell

Hello, I have 14 minutes of power on my laptop as have been separated from the charger…

thanks to my Manchester colleague for attempting to turn incoherent phone calls into notes for the blog - all the info is a bit confused and I hope I have a chance to write it all down for you properly soon (when?!)

anyway briefly:

Wed night: increasingly several attacks in Tel Hower area where hospital is. Knew it was our night for something to happen. Evacuated half the ambulances and crew out to Al Shifa, kept two but became impossible to leave building so did something amazing - went to sleep

Thurs morning: woke to confirm had several hits on building during night but no major damange. (To explain: Al Quds hospital is a complex really: the hospital warns/admin building, joined to the social centre which also has obstetrics and emergency underneath it at basement level, joined to the Red Crescent Ops building. All but the main hospital building and basement have been disfunctional since initial December 27 attacks.) Shortly after I woke, I was standing at window when a shell fell beside me outside and started fire. We began to put out fire, another strike in same place. A third strike started the fire really near the pediatric ward outside another window. Put out with pots and pans from sink.

Thursday middayish: two major strikes - rocket came in through hospital wall into pharmacy. Then one came through the roof of the social centre and caused major damage and fire. Medics managed to put it out. But the time I came on the scene (having been filling water buckets) they were clearly debris, and one medic was sitting on the floor crying.

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. Later I also round out that the army had gone into lots of buildings and taken all the men, I still have no news of what happened to them. People were coming to the hospital because they thought it might be safer so for fear of sniper fire we went out to escort them in our RC vests - I contacted West Bank ISM and they press released the situation and called for people to contact Israel and demand attacks on cviciliants and hospitals stop -

5 mins left -

anyway about 600 people into hospital, tanks visible during collecting them, some hours later did “walking evacuation” out of hospital as no facilities for so many, we and other staff headed back to hospital as patients still there and more families arrived to shelter, but then another missile hit the middle building and caught on fire badly, spread really quickly, medics fighting fire till ambulances came, evacauted everyone, even in beds, into street in the dark with further shooting and explosions occuring…

back today, lots of damange, fire still not out - can we continue to use as RC base or will Isreal now bomb it to dust? Medical supplies still in there -

RC having meeting now in Shifa carpark to make plans -

thanks for listening, we need you