Gaza hospital comes under fire
By Heather Sharp
BBC News, Jerusalem
Dr Waleed Abu Ramadan sighs down the phone.
The medical director of al-Quds hospital has not wept since he helped
evacuate several hundred people from the blazing Palestinian Red
Crescent (PRC) compound on Thursday night, but he says: "My heart is
He says he is standing next to the smouldering remains
of a pharmacy filled with bandages, medicines and other medical
supplies, describing the chaos as intensive care patients and premature
babies were wheeled onto the street.
The compound was hit twice during heavy fighting
between Israeli forces and Hamas militants in the Tel al-Hawa district
in the west of Gaza City.
In the first incident, in the morning, the administrative building next
to the hospital was hit and burst into flames. Patients were evacuated
"in panic" to the ground floor, the PRC said.
At about 2200 (2000 GMT), a second building housing
offices and a lecture theatre was hit. Fire spread to the roof of the
hospital itself, the PRC said.
The decision was taken to evacuate dozens of patients, together with
medical staff and several hundred people from the surrounding area who
had taken shelter in the compound.
An AFP photographer on location described scenes of
"utter panic" as wounded people tried to struggle from their hospital
"It was complete darkness in the street," says Dr
Ramadan. "Our medical staff were pulling beds and running. It was
difficult, very scary. There was some shooting. It was cold, very
cold," he adds.
"Maybe 15 beds we pulled out - and there were people on foot with terrible
injuries," he says.
It was 30 minutes before even the most vulnerable patients, including
three premature babies, were picked up in ambulances and transferred to
Gaza's Shifa hospital.
"Four patients were in intensive care, connected to the
machines - the staff were doing manual ventilation with oxygen bags.
The patients would die if they didn't do this," he says.
"The premature babies, we took them with the incubators," he adds.
"It was a risk for everybody to go on the street like this," he says,
but none of the patients suffered complications, "thank God".
Staff from the hospital say they do not know exactly
what hit the building, but the UN has said Israeli tank shells struck
three hospitals, including al-Quds, in Thursday's fighting.
A UN compound and a building housing journalists were also hit.
"It was really a disaster, it was scary and frightening," said Dr Ramadan.
"There is a lot of damage, we can't use the hospital at all. I don't
know how much time it will take before we can start using it again.
"This is our job. Now we are in the streets, the
hospital is not working. How do you think we feel? We are really
The Israeli military has not yet responded to this
particular incident, but it says it seeks to minimise civilian
casualties and blames Hamas for using civilians as human shields.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/01/16 16:28:04 GMT
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