In Gaza Strip, destruction and chaos

Civilians die as Israel targets Hamas

militants shoot alleged collaborators at hospital

December 30, 2008|By New York Times News Service

Gaza City, Gaza Strip - As the Israeli bombardment continued early today, residents pulled relatives from the rubble of prominent institutions leveled by waves of Israeli F-16 attacks, hospitals struggled to keep up with the wounded and the dead, and doctors scrambled for scarce medical supplies. Hamas gunmen shot alleged collaborators with Israel in public. Around the city, families huddled around battery-powered radios, desperate for information.

Israel sent in about 40 trucks carrying humanitarian relief supplies, including blood from Jordan and medicine. Egypt opened its border with Gaza to some similar aid and to allow some wounded through.

At Shifa Hospital in Gaza, the director, Dr. Hussein Ashour, said that keeping his wounded patients alive was an enormous challenge. He said there were about 1,500 wounded people distributed among Gaza's nine hospitals with far too few intensive-care units, equipped ambulances or other kinds of vital medical equipment.

Yesterday, he was not the only official in charge there. Armed Hamas militants in civilian clothes roamed the halls. Asked their function, they said they were providing security. But there was internal bloodletting under way.

In the fourth-floor orthopedic section, a woman in her late 20s asked a militant to let her see Saleh Hajoj, her 32-year-old husband. She was turned away and left the hospital.

Fifteen minutes later, Hajoj was carried out of his room by young men pretending to transfer him to another hospital section. As he lay on the stretcher, he was shot in the left side of the head.

Hajoj, like five others who have been killed at the hospital this way in the past 24 hours, was accused of collaboration with Israel. He had been in the central prison awaiting trial by Hamas judges, and when Israeli warplanes destroyed the prison Sunday, he and the others were transferred to the hospital. But their trials were short-circuited.

A crowd at the hospital showed no mercy after the shooting, which was widely observed. A man in his 30s mocked a woman who expressed horror at the scene.

"This horrified you?" he shouted. "A collaborator that caused the death of many innocent and resistance fighters?"

Sobhia Jomaa, a lawyer with the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, said 115 accused collaborators were in the central prison. None had been executed by Hamas since it took office, and their cases were monitored closely.

"The prison provided the sole protection to all of them," she said. "But once it was bombed, many wanted to take revenge."

Across the street from the hospital, a mosque where militants often took refuge has been destroyed by Israel, one of five mosques it has hit so far.

Electricity arrives in Gaza only a few hours a day, offering the diversion of television but nothing local. The Hamas station was taken out by an Israeli missile, and most local radio stations have closed their doors out of fear of suffering the same fate.

Israeli drones buzz overhead taking photographs.

Israel's heavy bombing, more than 300 airstrikes since the operation began Saturday, reduced dozens of buildings to rubble, but appeared to be targeted mainly at the political, military and academic symbols of Hamas rule in Gaza. The Israelis also made targets of the homes and offices of Hamas' political and military leaders, who did not appear in public during the day.

Despite fairly precise bombing, ordinary Gazans are constantly caught up in the fire. On Saturday, when dozens of Israeli sorties were made simultaneously, a group of young people, ages 18 to 20, were hit when a missile was aimed at a group of Hamas policemen in the street. According to a statement by U.N. Special Coordinator Robert Serry, eight of the young people, emerging from a U.N. training center, were killed instantly and 19 injured. Eight were in critical condition yesterday. One is awaiting emergency transfer to an Israeli hospital.

Serry sent Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak a letter of protest.

In the Jabaliya refugee camp, an attack Sunday on a mosque where militants were hiding also struck a nearby house, killing five girls under the age of 18, Health Ministry officials said.

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