'People Are Being Killed in Their Homes'

An Eyewitness Account of Conditions on the Ground in Gaza

RAFAH, Gaza, Jan. 5, 2009 —

The Israeli assault in Gaza is taking a particularly cruel toll on children who have been caught in the crossfire.

Gaza's hospitals are said to be at a breaking point, with medical supplies running low and paramedics among the many attacked. Western media have not been allowed into Gaza so far to witness and report on the situation there.

Jenny Linnel is a British volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a Palestinian nonviolent resistance movement, and has been working in the Gaza Strip since August. Since the Israeli assault on Gaza began Dec. 27, Linnel has been working alongside other volunteers to "witness and document the devastation" in Gaza.

Since the ground invasion, Linnel and other ISM activists have been working alongside medical personnel in the territory. Here is her eyewitness account of conditions on the ground in Gaza.

What we are seeing now is like nothing that's ever been seen before in the Gaza Strip. The ground invasion will only worsen things.

Ambulances have been attacked, adding to the great difficulty we are having reaching people. Yesterday five paramedics were killed on duty, three by a missile, and I think the other two were shot.

Conditions in Gaza's hospitals are growing more desperate. At least 2,500 Gazans have been wounded in these attacks. The hospitals here are dealing with such huge numbers. They were already running out of medical supplies before the attacks.

The director of the European Gaza Hospital near Khan Younis, Dr. Abdullatif el-Haj, just sent me a list of very basic supplies, supplies that any other hospital would have plenty of. They need latex gloves, gauze, bandages, syringes, oxide plasters, antibiotics. They are running out because there are so many traumas, and so many people susceptible to infections. They are massively overstretched.

And now, ambulance staff are being targeted. Just today, a missile landed in the car park next to the Al Awda hospital, the entrance of the hospital's emergency room has now been damaged.

There have been so many casualties. Last Tuesday, on the 30th of December, two of my colleagues in Beit Hanoun, in northeast Gaza, witnessed a missile strike that killed three children. These kids went to take out the rubbish. They were afraid to go out alone, so they went out together. The 4-year-old girl died instantly, her 12-year-old sister died upon arrival at the hospital and their 11-year-old brother, who was injured, died a few days later.

I have seen whole families being killed. Five sisters killed in Jabaliya, when their house was hit by a missile. … Their bodies being pulled out from under the rubble, all holding on to each other. I know another family that fled their home near the Gaza airport worried about their safety. They were killed yesterday while making their way to a relative's home. Nowhere is safe in the Gaza Strip.

On Monday, the 29th of December, three boys were killed in their home in Rafah by a missile. They were 4, 12, and 13 years old. We met their sister, who was injured and in a state of shock. Their mother was seriously injured, their father was injured as well. There are so many stories like this.

In Al-Garara village near Khan Younis, three children were killed, a 11-year-old girl and two 9-year-old boys. They were hit by a missile from an unmanned aircraft, locally known as drones. We see them flying over constantly, monitoring the situation. The uncle of these children told us that one of the boys. … His head was missing.

This is just a handful of the stories here. People are being killed in their homes, in their beds while they are sleeping.

Here in Rafah, the border opens intermittently and for very brief moments of time, allowing a trickle of aid to come through. If things continue like this, there will be a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

We are waiting. … We may find that areas will be sealed off, as is already happening in the north of Gaza, so my colleagues will either be stuck in certain areas or won't be able to get into areas. We know Israeli troops are outside Rafah. In time Rafah too could be sealed off, which will make our mobility very difficult. We just have to wait and see. We will continue to do the best we can for as long as we can.