Palestinian health workers in Gaza are once again scrambling to cope with the casualties from the latest Israeli airstrikes which have killed nearly 200 people. FRANCE 24’s Gallagher Fenwick took a ride with an ambulance team.
Sirens wailing, the speedometer climbing to 120 miles, an ambulance screeches through the empty streets of Beit Lahia, a northern Gaza city located close to the border with Israel.
For over a week, ambulance workers in this blockaded, densely populated strip of land have been working round the clock as Israeli airstrikes wreck a deadly toll.
“There was an airstrike,” explains Mohammed Salah, a Palestinian medical worker as he dons surgical gloves in the ambulance, ready for the next round of casualties.
That’s all he knows. For emergency workers like Salah, every call to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society sparks a trip at frightening speeds into the unknown. They have no idea where they are heading and what they’re going to find when they get there.
The ambulance stops outside an apartment block that locals say has just been hit by an Israeli missile.
As the health workers rush into an apartment that has been hit, residents stream out of the building.
Hyperventilating with the shock, a young man cradles an eerily silent toddler staring fixedly ahead and pants in broken English. “The Israelian shoots the missile on the people here,” he chokes. “No Hamas here. No missiles here. Just the womans. Just the childrens,” he says holding up the traumatised infant. “I can’t, I can’t speak, please,” he pants as he makes his way out into the street.
In the end, no one seems to have been wounded and the ambulance workers look relieved. "No one down right? Alhamdulillah,” says a paramedic using the oft-repeated Arabic phrase for “thanks and praise to God”.
But it’s a very temporary calm.
‘It was an F16’
The medics have just emerged from the building when another explosion booms in the distance and another distress call comes through.
“Get in, hurry up,” shouts the driver before embarking on another screeching trip through the city.
The biggest challenge at such times is locating the exact spot of the Israeli strike and ensuring that the site is secure enough to enter.
The ambulance driver stops to ask for directions. “Where did it hit? Was it a drone?”
“No, it was an F16," answers a resident, referring to the US-made fighter jet and pointing to a crater on the street in the distance.
Not knowing whether the Israeli airforce will strike a second time, the ambulance crew proceeds carefully. A quick inspection of the site determines that there were no casualties.
So far, it has been a calm run. But the ambulance workers know that this could be a period of relative calm before the storm. With no Mideast peace plan in sight, Palestinian militants of different stripes firing rockets from an impoverished, enclosed enclave into Israeli territory, which in turn invites Israeli retaliatory strikes, there can only be a lull, but not a foreseeable end, to the conflict in this region.
Date created : 2014-07-15