‘It was a night of terror, we were terrified, we thought we were going to burn to death,’ said 27-year-old Fadia Al-Najjar from Khaza’a yesterday morning, reporting the horrific night she and her family had just gone through.
‘Bombs were everywhere, and with them came the white clouds. White phosphorus, the doctors are now saying,’ she continued.
While explaining what had happened, Fadia stood next to her paramedic husband Ghanem, now surrounded by other medics desperately struggling to save his life after he was caught in an airstrike unlike he had ever seen before.
Ghanem was incapacitated while on duty trying to bring injured Palestinians to the hospital.
After calls reporting mysterious white smoke in the latest airstrike, Ghanem was dispatched to attend to the wounded, he was on duty when he inhaled the smoke.
‘The shelling with phosphorus bombs started in Khaza’a. Two of the bombs hit the area around our house,’ Fadia explained.
She recalled how the fire spread quickly throughout the home, and white smoke billowed out of the windows.
‘Neighbours were screaming, asking for help, the fire was changing, I woke up my kids, got them to my parents’ house, hoping to find a safer place.
‘But the real catastrophe was two hours after we had moved to my parents’ house; bombs hit their home too and the fire spread everywhere, the top floor was burnt completely.’
It’s not just her husband Fadia keeps watch over. The young mother has to split her time among the hospital’s many wards. Her children have also been hospitalised.
‘They wanted to burn us alive inside the house. There were 40 of us in there. Men, women, children. We could hear their bodies burning.
‘We didn’t know where to go. Our house, my parents’ house, my in-laws’ house? All were burnt, damaged, destroyed. But where can we go in this weather? It’s very cold.’
Dr Yousef Abu Ar-Reesh, the medical director at Nasser Medical Centre said that as far as he can tell, the Israeli army is using two kinds of bombs: ‘The first causes severe skin burns and leads to death, as with 41-year-old Hanan Al-Najjar here, and others.
‘The second kind leads to suffocation, congestion, the inability to breathe.
‘What is certain is that the Israeli government is using a new kind of bomb and explosives that Palestinian medics have never even heard of.
‘Not even the Arab medical teams who just arrived can give us any support,’ he says.
The doctor pointed out that the wounds and burns are ‘terrible and horrific’.
‘And they can lead to death, as with Hanan Al-Najjar, who burned to death when a shell directly hit her body.’
When asked if Israel is deliberately using weapons that are illegal under international law for use against civilians, Dr Ar-Reesh, choosing his words carefully, said: ‘I can’t rule that out’.
Israeli troop movements were focused on the south-western Gaza City neighbourhood of Tel Al-Hawwah overnight on Monday, with reports of 27 more dead, mostly from clashes in the Zaytoun and Tel Al-Hawwah neighbourhoods.
The death toll of 18 days of Israeli attacks is at least 930, with more than 4,280 injured.
Hamas’s Al-Qassam Brigades issued several statements announcing their attacks on Israeli troops near Tel Al-Hawwah.
At least eight Israeli military vehicles were hit, including two bulldozers being used to tear down buildings and facilitate troop movements in the densely populated city.
The An-Nasser brigades launched an RPG and four homemade projectiles at an Israeli tank participating in the ground battles.
Further east and closer to the city centre, resistance factions clashed with invading Israeli ground troops.
• Second news story
SINN FEIN DEMO AT STORMONT
THE Sinn Féin team in the Northern Assembly has held a solidarity event for the people of Gaza on the steps of Stormont.
Speaking after the event, Sinn Féin Chief Whip Carál Ní Chuilín said: ‘The event was a small symbol of our solidarity with the besieged people in Gaza.
‘As we return to the Assembly, it is of vital importance that the calls for a ceasefire and for inclusive negotiations are echoed here at Stormont.
‘Sinn Féin has submitted a no day named motion on the issue of Gaza and we will continue to highlight the terrible events taking place there, as well as continuing to call for an end to the war and peace for all those people suffering at present.’
The Sinn Féin Stormont rally followed a massive rally through Belfast city centre at the weekend.
With the June European poll campaign about to shift into top gear for what promises to be one of the most keenly fought elections since the 1998 Northern Assembly poll, the Gaza crisis could bring more sectarian polarisation to the North.
In the past, flags have been used by the two communities to mark out their respective ‘turf’.
However, while many republican areas fly Palestinian flags in solidarity with the Palestinian cause, loyalist areas have retaliated by hoisting the blue Israeli Star of David flag.