News from a Red Cross Worker In Gaza

(Editor's note: post updated below with notes, related factchecking, and news citations. This is a complex story, and many readers have understandably strong feelings about wanting to ensure accuracy and fairness.)

A Boing Boing reader writes:

I do not take sides, as the Gaza civilians are victims of both Hamas and the Israelis. FYI my nephew works for the ICRC in Gaza, and therefore has first-hand knowledge of what's happening on the ground. Here is a summary of what he said in a recent phone call to his family.

- He's holding on in a bunker with metal shutters, he cannot bail out because he is responsible for too many people looking up to him, but 4 ICRC expats have left because of physical/mental exhaustion, and his Palestinian colleagues (Red Cross/Red Crescent) are equally exhausted, plus they have to get back to their families at night and organize survival (assuming their home hasn't been destroyed yet.)

- He has to organize the evacuation and taking care of the dead and wounded (100 yesterday.)

- The Israeli army deliberately intimidates, and aims at humanitarian groups, and they did shoot at an ICRC ambulance convoy three days ago, nearly killing a driver.

- Everything is demolished, and sometimes the ICRC has to use donkey carts because it is the only way to get through, and get at the dead and wounded. The Israeli army refuses to help.

- Palestinian kids are traumatized mentally, and forever.

- Both sides [Hamas & Israelis] have turned mad.

- The media doesn't always tell the truth. For instance, the supposedly phosphor bombs are only a rumor, and nothing is confirmed. My nephew thinks that they are only lighting devices, but that they can burn people.

- Norwegian doctors based in Gaza have denounced Israel's use of phosphor bombs, but there is no substantiated evidence.

- There were talks about having humanitarian planes taking wounded Palestinian kids to Europe for care-taking. That is not the solution: those kids are traumatized to start with ("terrorized" as my nephew put it,) they only speak Arabic, they are better kept with their families. There are great doctors in Gaza, but the long Israeli-enforced apartheid and subsequent shortages limit their ability to work. The best thing to do is to send doctors in the immediate area, i.e. setting field hospitals in Rafat on the border with Egypt, or on the border with Israel with doctors who speak Arabic.

- The ICRC president came for one day to motivate the Gaza team, and said that this conflict was ICRC's worst since the Solferino battle, which prompted Henri Dunant to create the Red Cross (Wikipedia reference).

- The (reduced) IRC team in Gaza has enough food, water and electricity reserves for the time being, but they have to work with constant bombardment/shelling, i.e. no sleep. They think that they are doing a great job, but don't have much hope for the future of the Gaza people.

Previously: Al Jazeera Releases Gaza Video Archive Under Creative Commons License
Update: A brief editor's note here, to address some readers' concern that this post might imply an editorial position that human rights violations are being committed by only one side in the conflict. The head of the ICRC issued a statement last week calling for Hamas to cease targeting civilians, also, and there are reports Hamas fighters have hijacked ambulances or aid convoys for use as military vehicles (I am looking for verifiable reports, will add notes as I find). Regarding the submitter's comment that "The Israeli army deliberately intimidates, and aims at humanitarian groups, and they did shoot at an ICRC ambulance convoy three days ago, nearly killing a driver" -- we will note, for context, that there are reports of similar violations by Hamas fighters. I cannot find news reports or ICRC statements substantiating the ambulance attack, but will continue to look, and I welcome discussion in the comments thread. See update below. Here is a related report, and here is a news item about the Israeli military's use of white phosphorus (also referenced above) in combat. This NYT story today also addresses the conflict within Israel about civilian losses, and conduct in war. This item addresses the current civilian death toll on both sides.

Update 2: Regarding the submitter's note about a recent incident in which an ICRC ambulance convoy was shot, news reports indicate that it happened within the past week. Here are several news links related to this story:

* Red Cross restricts Gaza operations after coming under attack
* Gaza: le CICR n'escortera plus les ambulances palestiniennes
* Ambulance Trip from Gaza a Harrowing Ride
* Gaza: the challenge of reaching civilians in need
* Gaza "no place for civilians": ICRC
* Aid groups report way into Israel is deadly

According to broadcast reports, an ICRC representative confirmed that the organization had secured safe passage with the Israelis for this aid convoy, and that they routinely follow protocol by slowing down or stopping at checkpoints. This incident, in which the convoy was apparently fired on by Israeli military forces, underscored the need to re-clarify that understanding with the Israeli military forces.
And regarding the submitter's note that there is no evidence phosphorus bombs are being used on Gaza targets -- there is evidence now. Link 1, Link 2, Link 3.
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