Amira Hass: Preparing for the Next Invasion

By Amira Hass

The management of the Beit Hanun hospital decided to dig a well in the hospital’s yard. By Saturday, laborers and bulldozers were already on the job. That is how the hospital is readying itself for the next invasion by the Israeli army.

The hospital, like the rest of Beit Hanun, has faced serious water supply difficulties due to the week-long military assault on the city and its 43,000 inhabitants. On the third night of the invasion, the army removed about 300 people from their homes in anticipation of the planned explosion of a nearby building. Everyone went to the hospital, joining the many injured individuals who were already there. Women and children who had gone out to the street Friday morning were also sent to the small hospital by soldiers.

Hundreds of people gathered there, exhausted and frightened by two sleepless nights, by the unending weapons fire from the positions taken up by the Israel Defense Forces in the houses it had occupied, by the sound of explosions and roar of dozens of tanks and armored personnel carriers that advanced through the streets shredding the roads, knocking down electricity poles, breaking water and sewage pipes, and destroying walls and fences.

Normally, the hospital uses 50,000 liters of water a day. During the entire week of the invasion, the hospital received only 15,000 liters. Children cried from thirst, their parents helpless to ease their suffering. Even in the neighborhood of the Athamna family, which IDF soldiers shelled with a series of deadly artillery shells, people recalled the thirst with a shudder.

The hospital learned other lessons as well. The refrigerator in its morgue had room for three bodies. Another refrigerator has been added, with room for six additional corpses. The hospital will also purchase an underground diesel fuel tank. The western part of the hospital was hit during last week’s invasion, a precedent whose lesson is that in the future, flammable materials must be kept out of the range of IDF bullets. The hospital also asked for a budget for ambulances with front-wheel drive, since the current ones could not easily navigate the streets torn up by the tank treads.

The assumption is that the Israeli army will continue to invade, destroy and damage infrastructure – either intentionally, or because that is the nature of tanks – impeding water and electricity supplies and shooting at civilian institutions. The army will not change, and no one will restrain it. Therefore, appropriate preparations must be made.

But how can one prepare for the complicated and prolonged to the level of life-endangering coordination involved in evacuating the sick and wounded? Hospital director Dr. Jamil Suleiman tells the story of a man, about 50 years old, who suffered a heart attack. The medical team waited for about two hours before receiving permission from the army to rescue him. The man died. In the case of a woman who was about to give birth, the coordination took five hours and eventually she gave birth in the ambulance. It took about 10 hours to bring a man with leg injuries to the hospital by ambulance. The ambulance kept running into tanks that blocked its progress.

The sterile, deceptive expression "IDF operation" commonly used in the Israeli media, conceals thousands of details of killing, destruction and terror carried out by the Israeli war machine and the commanders and soldiers that operate it – in Beit Hanun last week and in other assaults and invasions over the past six years that were termed "operations."

One of those who disappeared in this manner is Bara Fayyad, aged four. Soldiers burst into the Fayyads’ home, made of tin, plaster and asbestos, through the wall they destroyed using explosives. The meager house and its contents were badly damaged by the explosion. Throughout Beit Hanun, frightened children clung to their parents everywhere they went. Bara and his brothers were clinging to their parents at dawn Friday when the latter went outside to wash their hands in a sink in the yard prior to morning prayers. A missile fired from a helicopter or an unmanned aerial vehicle – the neighbors do not know which – hit the yard and created a deep hole. Bara was killed.

Also among those who disappeared are Abu Bassam, 52, and his two sons. All three were injured when an Israeli missile landed on, and badly damaged, their house. Abu Bassam was wounded again, in the leg, by sniper fire when he went to the outhouse in the yard of relatives he was staying with after suffering his original injury.

At least four civilians were shot and injured twice by soldiers. They disappeared from Israeli public awareness, like Mazen Kafrana, one of thousands of men rounded up from their homes, arrested, briefly interrogated and released. Mazen was released at the Erez crossing and walked home. The area was under curfew, and soldiers shot him to death.

Twenty-five houses also disappeared from the media. They were destroyed completely, while another 400 were damaged, some of them so badly they have to be demolished. All told, about one-tenth of the 4,500 residential buildings in the town were damaged. The Beit Hanun municipality estimates the cost of the damage at about $14.5 million, in addition to the $6 million in damages from July’s attack.

The lack of desire by the Israeli public to know is reinforced and completed by the "lack of space" in the media and the hierarchy of editing that deletes critical information about the Israeli army and, in effect, about Israeli society – a society that is constantly manufacturing destructive capabilities, and sending its twenty something-year-olds to destroy lives, cities and futures.

© (Nov 15, 2006)

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