From Gaza, with Love

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

IN Jabalia refujee camp -usual Isreali Army practise

Dear Friends
Today in the early morning hours , and while the health emergency teams on duty in Jabalia were trying to evacuate the injured and dead , they were targeted by the Israeli army. One of the paramedics was killed, and another injured. (I will provide more details when I have the names and time of the incident )

I warned in a previous entry in my blog , and several times in my writing while reporting from Gaza since 2000, of the targeting of health teams while on duty and in clear uniform .
Who is violating human rights? And, talking of terrorism - what about state terrorism!
In Gaza we have much evidence of daily human rights violations. We do not need the world to say they did not know, when this genocide is such a prominent fact.

I am travelling from Manchester to Cairo this week to send medication, emergency supplies, and very important orthopaedic equipment, for Al Awda hospital and the Red Crescent society. Also, some very important children's medication, and medications for chronic diseases. While the hospitals are overwhelmed with the injured, it is important to secure the rest of the patients - a very difficult balance for us in such crisis, with the health services at the point of collapse.

I highly recommend this website for more information about Palestine

Monday, December 29, 2008

Gaza Under The Attack -No Place is Safe -

It is extremely difficult for me to be here in the UK watching events unfold on the ground in Gaza from this very far distance. With a broken heart I watch the news from this unprecedented and savage Israeli attack on my friends, family, and colleagues in Gaza. In the last two days around 300 Israeli air strikes have hit dozens of locations in the overcrowded Gaza Strip. Their “military targets” are mixed in with homes, schools, hospitals, and universities. As of this writing, 294 people are dead and more than 600 injured.

Unnecessary deaths

I am distraught thinking about the fate of these injured people. I know the situation of hospitals in Gaza well through my health and humanitarian work. The siege of Gaza has left our hospitals without one hundred basic medications and many important diagnostic and laboratory equipment is not working because spare parts aren’t available and the fluctuation of current from our irregular power supply has left some equipment beyond repair. In this period of crisis, Gaza hospitals are also lacking crucial medications and supplies for their operation rooms.

I’ve watched the chaotic scenes inside Gaza hospitals as staff struggle to find space for all of the injured and dead. The unprecedented numbers of casualties come in from ambulances and cars in a near-constant stream. But emergency situations are nothing new in Gaza; it is the impact of the siege that has changed the odds. I know that we would be facing a different situation if the 18 months of siege hadn’t drained our supplies of medicines and food, making it difficult to treat and feed patients.

I’ve spoken to several of my fellow doctors in Gaza and each one of them is overwhelmed and demoralized. Even with all of their training, the material conditions in Gaza are preventing them from doing what they are capable of. They could have saved many more lives.

I remember how ambulance drivers were not allowed to reach the injured in previous military attacks on Gaza. Many lives could have been saved then too if the ambulances reached the injured at the right time. A few minutes can be the difference between life and death. I wonder whether we will hear reports like this again once the emergency situation is over and there is time for truth and reflection.

No place is safe in Gaza

The first military air strikes struck at the exact time that school children make their way home. W here I live in Gaza City, several primary schools are very close to the police headquarters which were among the first targets. These horrifying facts explain the high number of women and children amongst the dead. Thirty children and nine women have been reported dead and another 130 children and 38 women injured.

I’ve spoken with friends and family in Gaza and my heart sunk further with their first-hand accounts of the death and destruction. On a personal level I am mourning the loss of one of my cousins, Ibrahim Mahmoud El-Farra, age 22. He was killed in the first attack on the presidential palace. F16 fighter planes fired three big missiles at the building. Neighbors tell me the ground shook and that the blast broke all the windows of my nearby apartment building.

My cousin, and an unknown number of other victims, is still under the rubble. The scale of destruction is too large for Gaza’s small number of rescue workers. They are slowly pulling body parts out of the rubble as Israeli air strikes make more and more piles of rubble and people.

The number of reported deaths will increase in the next few days as more bodies are recovered and more of the seriously injured cases die because their serious but treatable wounds cannot be treated in Gaza.

No justification

As a mother, I believe that all children are precious and deserve love and protection. If Israeli children are terrified and confined to the shelters because of the Palestinian rockets, this is wrong. But it is no justification to kill Gaza’s children and innocent civilians, who make up the majority of victims. Israel’s actions are creating more and more hatred. While families in Gaza cower in their homes, ready for death to strike, how can Israel talk of peace? Neither building the wall in the West Bank nor attacking Gaza so savagely will bring peace to Israel. Only peace that is based on justice and respects the rights of us all will work in the end. We are humans too.

With an aching heart I continue to watch Gaza from a distance. I cannot turn the TV off, cannot detach myself from what is going on there. Not while my medical colleagues work hard under such extraordinarily circumstances. Not while my friends, my family, and the whole population of Gaza face such horrible atrocities and constant fear. The nightmare isn’t over.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy New year

Land , Peace and Bread
Dear friends, comrades,brothers, sisters all over the world

While the whole world celebrates the Christmas and the New year, I am sure that Palestinian children inside Gaza are not forgotten by you. But they need to know that you are there and you care, and they are not abandoned by the world, while they have to suffer daily different sorts of inhumane practices that have been imposed on them by USA , Europe and Israel as part of cruel siege and economical embargo.

While I am here in the UK I watch different TV advertisements, to encourage people to be kind to each other specially at Christmas time…to be kind to the abused children, the homeless people, to be kind to donkeys in the developing countries, to help children to have access to clean water in Africa…I felt proud of all those advertisements, that encourage the population here to feel their existence as part of the international family.

I wish I have seen an advert describing the living conditions of the Palestinian children in Gaza, where children have no clean water, no bread, no safe homes, no safe schools, no safe playgrounds, no safe environment, no proper housing conditions, not enough medications, no electricity, no cooking gas and no entertainment facilities…while all the borders are strictly closed and nobody can get out no matter how great their need or wish.

While you are celebrating the Christmas and the New Year, think of Gaza children, think of the world as one family looking for peace and justice, looking for stability and happiness for all
I love you all
And again merry Xmas and happy New Year

Mona ElFarra

Friday, December 19, 2008

from Gaza to Larnaka and then Manchester -Uk

Manchester, 15 November - a few days after my arrival in the UK
My email to my friend , Mona Bsieso , palestinan from Gaza ,lives abroad.
Dear Mona,
It has been very difficult for me to leave Gaza. I tried to leave several times to reach my youngest daughter who was not allowed re-entry to Gaza. She is now at one of the British schools trying hard to adjust to the educational, cultural, and social system here.
I am very busy trying to support my daughter, but at the same time I am anxious to go back home to continue my work. I cannot rest knowing of the difficulties and ordeals people face daily. I know exactly how inhumane life can be without electricity, gas, petrol, or a way out. And on top of that the daily military operations against Gaza.
With a torn heart, I sailed last week on board of one of the Free Gaza Movement boats and watched Gaza's beach slowly disappear. On the way to Larnaka I sobbed a lot. It was hard for me to be on board a small boat in the midst of a dangerous hostile sea and harder still was to think about the unpredictable future. Even though I was on my way to see my children I did not feel the normal, natural human feelings. You see, everything in Palestinian psychology is mixed with sadness, uncertainty, and great suffering.
When the captain announced that we had reached international waters, I threw fifteen bouquets of wild flowers from my garden in loving memory of the 15 fishermen who were killed by the Israeli naval forces in last five years. Their only crime was accidentally fishing farther out than the Israeli army permits, though they were still within Gazan waters according to international treaties. They were killed while trying to secure some sort of living for their families amidst the cruel, unjustified occupation and collective punishment that are imposed on all of us under the slogan of security. Their executions go against all humanitarian values.
I am looking forward to hearing from you. Please pass my warm regards to all the friends who support us in Gaza. It is with their solidarity that we can continue and show resilience during the most difficult times, while we face the occupation and the world's shameful silence.

Yours sincerely,
Mona El Farra

The siege -closure- and my personal story

This time I’m writing my own very personal story. But it is also the story of 1.6 million Palestinians in Gaza who are living under the siege and the hurtful cruel occupation and collective punishment.

Last June, I decided to send my 16-year-old daughter for a vacation in the UK. We had to go through a very complicated procedure for her to leave Gaza. The borders opened twice but she, like many students and patients, was not able to leave. My daughter holds a British passport so the British Consulate put a lot of efforts towards getting a permit from Israel for my daughter to leave Gaza with some other British citizens via the Jordan River.

Six weeks after the start of the summer holidays, my daughter was issued the permit to leave Gaza. She traveled north through the Erez crossing then to the West Bank and over the bridge to Jordan. From there she flew from Amman to Manchester. After a short visit she flew back to Amman. She was on her way back to the Jordan River crossing when we were informed that there are new regulations and we would need a new permit for my daughter to enter Gaza again!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I applied for this permit from the Israeli army via the Palestinian coordination office in Gaza several times but received no reply. For six long weeks my child stayed in Amman with relatives, unsure what will happen next. We waited and waited but meanwhile her school in Gaza opened and she was very much concerned, as were we all, about her education.

I tried contacting human rights organizations in Israel to ask for assistance but everybody said it might take months to get her a permit to return home!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just one small piece of paper was preventing my child from coming home!!!!!!!!!!!!! Though she is privileged to hold a British passport this still did not secure her return home. In the eyes of the Israeli occupation she is treated as any Palestinian, because she holds a Palestinian ID card as well.

Our family decided that Sondos should return to the UK and enroll in one of the colleges there. But it was not easy for a 16-year-old girl to adapt to different educational and social systems, new surroundings, and late school entry. All these pressures besides being 16!!!!!!

Back in Gaza I decided to travel to the UK to help my daughter settle in to her new environment. For three continuous months I tried to find a way out of Gaza. The Rafah border was only opened once for 3 days in all that time. I waited among a throng of people at the border but I, like so many others, was turned back when they closed the border again on the third day. After this experience I took a decision to leave Gaza on one of the Free Gaza Movement boats to Larnaka. From there I flew to UK where I am now staying with my daughter. She still finds it very difficult to cope with the educational system, but it is even more difficult for her to adjust to the new social framework or structure.

As for me, I was invited by the Palestine Solidarity Committee, Liverpool Friends of Palestine, and others to give talks about my life in Gaza. So I tell audiences about the Gazans who died because they weren’t allowed to travel abroad for treatment and we didn’t have the necessary medicines or equipment to treat them in Gaza. I explain what it’s like to live in the dark because the power supply is cut off most of the days and nights. I give voice to the hundreds of newborn andpremature babies in our hospitals who are dying slowly , because we cannot accurately measure the gas system in their tiny bodies due to the interrupted power supply.

The numbers are staggering. Eighteen percent of children under the age of 15 in Gaza have stunted growth and forty-five percent have iron deficiency anemia due to lack of proper nutrition. Eighty percent of the population is now living in poverty and two thirds are refugees that were ethnically cleansed from their villages 60 years ago. More than 650,000 children under the age of 16 suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

But the stories are worse. I explain what it PTSD means for these children, how they suffer from all sorts of nightmares, anxiety, and inability to focus at school, phobias, bedwetting, stress, and depression.

But the worst feeling of all is our feeling of abandonment. Enduring the hardships of daily life in Gaza under the siege and occupation is less harmful than having to live day after day without hope. We are losing of faith in the outside world for not taking serious actions against Israel’s crimes against humanity in Gaza.

I'm determined to go back to Gaza, to continue my responsibilities, in the Red Crescent Society ,as well as my responsibilities as MECA Projects director, where I coordinate cultural and health projects , for children community centers and the relief work I coordinate for hundreds of families ,
. My life will be torn between the two things I love most: my children and my work for my people in Gaza.

the closure- the siege -and my personal experience

Thursday, December 18, 2008

On Life Support--Guardian Editorial

Guardian, Friday 12 December 2008
This is surely the result of Mona's meeting with the Guardian editor and a handful of others. good for her.
Victoria Britain
On Fri, 12/12/08, Ray Dolphin wrote: Editorial The Guardian, Friday 12 December 2008 On life support
Anyone who thinks that the status quo in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is acceptable should talk to a doctor fromGaza . There is an acute shortage of all drugsand a complete lack of all cancer and cystic fibrosis medication. The hospitals have generators, but often no fuel, and switching from mains to an emergency> supply wrecks the equipment. One of the strip's three CT scanners is bust because of fluctuations in current. This also makes the temperature control of incubators for newborn babies unreliable. According to one source, more than 230 patients died last year waiting for a permit to leave The list goes on: the majority of Gaza 's children present the symptoms of mild or severe post traumatic stress disorder. About 45% of children under five have iron deficiency from lack of fruit, and meat and 18% of children have stunted growth. There is one other statistic: 71% of children interviewed at a school recently said they wanted to be a "martyr" A six-month ceasefire, or a period of "quiet" between Israel and Hamas, exists in name only. The current volley of raids and rockets started on November 4 when Israel said it uncovered a tunnel Hamas was planningto use to capture soldiers. Israeli forces have killed at least 10 Hamas gunmen, and as the rockets rained down on Sderot and Ashkelon, the gates of Gaza were locked. They were opened on Tuesday when 45 trucks of food, medical supplies cooking gas and fuel were let through. Israel says it will stop its blockade the moment the rockets cease and defends itself from the charge that its actions amount to collective punishment by drawing comparisons with other sanctions regimes. But Israel is not the only player. Conditions in Gaza are daily news in the Arab media and Egypt is coming under pressure to open its border with Gaza . British ministers may protest about the border closures, but the whole world community is complicit with the policy of punishing Palestinians for having elected Hamas. There is no defence for Hamas' use of rockets against Israeli civilian targets. Making Israeli children cower in concrete shelters is not "resistance". But nor can one justify the policy of keeping 1.5 million Palestinians on life support and then turning the ventilator off from time to time. Even less should it be tolerated by the incoming Obama administration. One cannot point, as Dennis Ross has done, to the dangers of Gaza becoming a failed state, while supporting policies which ensure the state continues to fail. Keeping Gaza perched on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe should not appeal to a US president who intends to use his middle name to reach out to the Arab world.