Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A lottery of life and death for ambulance medics

Jack Shenker in Rafah
The Guardian, Tuesday 6 January 2009

"....Patients - mostly children, women and the elderly, according to medics - are whisked through the frontier gates to a hospital in the nearby town of al-Arish, with the most serious cases then flown on to Cairo. On their way they pass ambulances carrying the bodies of those for whom help came too late, on their way back to be processed for burial in Gaza.

"We are doing the best we can, but really it feels futile," said one Egyptian paramedic. "There are thousands who need us across the wall. In the past three days I've seen 14 make it through."

Nine days into the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, thousands of Egyptian soldiers are also in Rafah and al-Arish, braced for a possible repeat of last year's border breach by besieged Palestinians. "Rafah is a ghost town," said Nora Younis, an Egyptian journalist and activist who had travelled up from Cairo. "The streets are cold and tense, with barricades and security officers dug in on every corner of every alley."

For every medical emergency trying to make it out of Gaza, there is a healthy Gazan fighting to return. "In other parts of the world people try and escape wars," said Khalil Alniss, a Palestinian with UK citizenship who has driven from Scotland to try to deliver supplies into the strip. "But here people say 'no, I will return to my land and I will die in my land'. Only in Palestine."....."

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