Gazan Doctor: Entire Families Have Vanished In Operation Protective Edge

TRNN Correspondent Lia Tarachansky and Islamic University Professor Dr. Khamis Elessi discuss the situation in Gaza & Israel after the 72-hour ceasefire expired.

Bio

Lia Tarachansky is an Israeli-Russian journalist with The Real News Network reporting on Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Born in the Soviet Union, Tarachansky grew up in a settlement in the occupied West Bank. She is the director of On the Side of the Road, a documentary on Israel's biggest taboo - the events of 1948 when the state was created. Tarachansky previously worked as a Newsroom Producer in The Real News' Washington D.C. and Toronto Headquarters, and her work appeared on BBC, Al Jazeera, USA Today, Canadian Dimension Magazine and others.

Khamis A. Elessi MSc, MD, Palestinian Board in PM&R. He had his medical education and clinical training in various countries (Philippines, Israel and the UK) with two years in British hospitals. He has chaired the medical rehab team at Elwafa Med Rehab Hospital in Gaza for the last 15 years and mainly worked in the field of Neuro-Rehabilitation and Pain Management. Now he is full time Assistant Professor at the College of Medicine in the Islamic University-Gaza where he founded the first Palestinian EBM unit to promote EBM throughout Gaza Strip.

Transcript

ANTON WORONCZUK, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Anton Woronczuk in Baltimore.

The fighting has resumed between Israel and Gaza after the 72 hour ceasefire expired Friday morning. The UN has reported that a ten-year-old from Gaza City was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City shortly after the ceasefire ended, and several Israelis were reportedly wounded by mortar shrapnel.

With negotiations in Cairo at a standstill, we're now joined by our two guests.

Joining us from Gaza City is Dr. Khamis Elessi. Dr.. Elessi is an assistant professor at the Islamic University's College of Medicine in Gaza city.

Also joining us, from Tel Aviv, is our Middle East correspondent Lia Tarachansky.

Thank you both for joining us.

DR. KHAMIS ELESSI, ASS'T PROF. MEDICINE, ISLAMIC UNIV., GAZA:
Thank you.

LIA TARACHANSKY, MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT, THE REAL NEWS NETWORK: Thank you.

WORONCZUK: So, Lia, let's start with you. The 72 hour ceasefire that expired on Friday was the longest since Operation Protective Edge began. Why was the ceasefire not extended?

TARACHANSKY: Well, there's a lot of rumors and a lot of leaked information about why the ceasefire was not extended. The Palestinian side is blaming the Israelis for dragging their feet. The Israeli side is blaming the Palestinians for wanting too much. In the meantime, the Europeans--Germany, France, and England--have proposed their own conditions for a stable ceasefire. And so you have here a lot of different sides pushing for the ceasefire to be extended and a lot of different sides pulling for it to fall apart.

What we do know for a fact is that a lot of pressure has been exerted on the Jordanians, as the newest members of the UN Security Council, to pressure for some kind of resolution to pressure Israel into stopping its war on Gaza. So far that hasn't worked.

WORONCZUK:
Okay. And Dr. Elessi, you are in Gaza City right now. What is your sense of the level of support for Hamas now that the fighting has resumed?

ELESSI: [I won't lie. (?)] You can't gauge exactly what level, but from the people who have lost their loved ones and they have lost their homes, those kind of people, they tend to support somebody who will assist this sort of actions and will some sort take revenge for their big losses. And when you're speaking about almost 2,000 Palestinian dead, most, the vast majority of them, are women and children. And when you speak about almost 10,000 Palestinian injuries, of course, you can imagine the kind of sentiment in the hearts of those people who have lost everything, not forgetting about more than 20,000 homes which have been partially or totally destroyed. So the more killing you have in this streets, the more hatred will be implanted in the hearts of the people who have lost everything. And I think this will create more and more support for militant resistance against Israel.

ANTON WORONCZUK, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Anton Woronczuk in Baltimore.

The fighting has resumed between Israel and Gaza after the 72 hour ceasefire expired Friday morning. The UN has reported that a ten-year-old from Gaza City was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City shortly after the ceasefire ended, and several Israelis were reportedly wounded by mortar shrapnel.

With negotiations in Cairo at a standstill, we're now joined by our two guests.

Joining us from Gaza City is Dr. Khamis Elessi. Dr.. Elessi is an assistant professor at the Islamic University's College of Medicine in Gaza city.

Also joining us, from Tel Aviv, is our Middle East correspondent Lia Tarachansky.

Thank you both for joining us.

DR. KHAMIS ELESSI, ASS'T PROF. MEDICINE, ISLAMIC UNIV., GAZA:
Thank you.

LIA TARACHANSKY, MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT, THE REAL NEWS NETWORK: Thank you.

WORONCZUK: So, Lia, let's start with you. The 72 hour ceasefire that expired on Friday was the longest since Operation Protective Edge began. Why was the ceasefire not extended?

TARACHANSKY: Well, there's a lot of rumors and a lot of leaked information about why the ceasefire was not extended. The Palestinian side is blaming the Israelis for dragging their feet. The Israeli side is blaming the Palestinians for wanting too much. In the meantime, the Europeans--Germany, France, and England--have proposed their own conditions for a stable ceasefire. And so you have here a lot of different sides pushing for the ceasefire to be extended and a lot of different sides pulling for it to fall apart.

What we do know for a fact is that a lot of pressure has been exerted on the Jordanians, as the newest members of the UN Security Council, to pressure for some kind of resolution to pressure Israel into stopping its war on Gaza. So far that hasn't worked.

WORONCZUK: Okay. And Dr. Elessi, you are in Gaza City right now. What is your sense of the level of support for Hamas now that the fighting has resumed?

ELESSI: [I won't lie. (?)] You can't gauge exactly what level, but from the people who have lost their loved ones and they have lost their homes, those kind of people, they tend to support somebody who will assist this sort of actions and will some sort take revenge for their big losses. And when you're speaking about almost 2,000 Palestinian dead, most, the vast majority of them, are women and children. And when you speak about almost 10,000 Palestinian injuries, of course, you can imagine the kind of sentiment in the hearts of those people who have lost everything, not forgetting about more than 20,000 homes which have been partially or totally destroyed. So the more killing you have in this streets, the more hatred will be implanted in the hearts of the people who have lost everything. And I think this will create more and more support for militant resistance against Israel.

TARACHANSKY: One person was killed next to Ramallah, a young man from the soccer team in al-Am'ari Camp, making him the 16th person to die in West Bank protests in solidarity with Gaza. And when a Hamas spokesperson was delivering his speech today, my sources in the West Bank report that there's now almost total support for Hamas's stance that either Israel accept 100 percent of their demands or nothing at all.

WORONCZUK: And what about in Israel, Lia? What is public opinion surrounding the negotiations, as well as support for the resumption of fighting?

TARACHANSKY: So in Israel you get a very varied response. In the middle of the war, which most Israelis now consider to be over, even though it they never ended--it's now the 33rd day, and we're seeing that fighting is resuming--maybe to a lower extent, but it's definitely resuming, and there was never any truce signed. So the war is definitely not over.

But for most Israelis who didn't experience what the Gazans went through, most of our lives have continued as normal, except for those in the south who have been under the heaviest barrage of rockets. So even though 18 rockets were sent already by noon this morning, one of them injuring four people, most Israelis are completely oblivious to the reality that the Gazans are living as a result of Israeli bombardment. And so it's very easy for public opinion to support a war or to reject it.

What we saw in the middle of the war is that almost 87 percent of Israelis said that they were against a ceasefire until the goals of the war are achieved. Now, the goals of the war have changed along the operation every time. First the government was saying that the purpose is to restore quiet, whatever that means. Then they were saying that the goal of the operation is to stop the rockets. Then one of the rockets hit near the airport, causing European at American airlines to cut their flights to Israel, costing Israel billions in tourism dollars, and then they changed the language from rockets to tunnels, halfway through the war. Now when a ceasefire went into effect on August 2, the first time, one of the Israeli high generals went on air saying that all of the tunnels have been destroyed, something which is not even remotely true, something which he is alone in saying and which now has been running as a sort of echo chamber, while there's been no proof given whatsoever to that, when just the day before, a top Israeli security official was saying that there is no way to really know how many tunnels exist and how to destroy all of them. So in the mind of most Israelis, hearing again and again the repeating of this rumor, the tunnels have been destroyed or that all the tunnels have been destroyed, coupled with seeing the Israeli reservists evacuate the Gaza Strip completely, half of them being sent home, in the minds of the Israelis the war seems to be over.

WORONCZUK: Okay. And, Khamis, we understand that the Islamic University in Gaza, where you teach medicine, was bombed last week. Can you talk about the effects of the assault on the educational institutions and medical services in Gaza?

ELESSI: Of course. The Islamic University is one of the institutions which has been affected by this inhumane war against Gaza Strip, because the part of the society who's paying the highest price for this inhumane war is the civilian population. Just imagine. The Islamic University is a university with more than 21,000 students. Seventy percent are female students and almost 40 percent or 35 percent are male students. And this university is considered to be the top one university in all over Palestine over the last seven years, and considered to be the number ten all over the Arab world. And [incompr.] have harvested international metals and prizes worldwide for their excellence. And the university has 58 different programs, from arts to poetry, architecture, and engineering and medicine and science and medical technology, so all different courses. Just imagine when now the students will go back to their seats in the university. They will find one of the major buildings has been attacked or demolished.

Not only this, but the the education atmosphere should be a conducive atmosphere for students to study and learn and aspire to improve their knowledge, not an atmosphere of attack and just giving them a sense that they are in the military zone. Imagine when a university's being attacked how much more, because not [incompr.] were attacked, but schools, UNRWA schools, under the flag of the UN, were attacked, [certain (?)] schools were attacked, and more than 45 Palestinians were killed inside the UN schools in the presence of UN staff, unfortunately.

Not only this, but also the ambulance cars--we have almost 17 paramedics have been killed. Two doctors were killed. Many hospitals, nine hospitals, have been attacked. Four clinics have been attacked. Thirteen schools were demolished. More than 52 mosques were demolished completely. And 130 mosques were demolished partially.

So it's a war in everything. It's a war on humans and stones, bricks, culture, poetry, history. It's not a war on militia, because the one who's paying the biggest price are the civilian population. Unfortunately, the civilian population, hatred inside their hearts will breed more hatred. And I think the one who's [guiding (?)] this war and the one who's guiding this war is [guiding (?)] the whole area into more and more anger and more and more cycle of violence in the future, because hatred will only breed hatred.

And can you imagine, when you're living with your family in your flat or you're living in one apartment--. And just to give our American brothers and sisters a sense of view of what Gaza Strip looks like, Gaza is a tiny strip of land located by the Mediterranean 5 kilometers wide by 40 kilometers long. And because of this tiny area, 2.2 million people are living in this area. And most of the families are extended families, meaning the father living in the first floor, his family living in the second floor, his second son in the third floor, and so on and so forth. So you have buildings, seven-floor buildings, six-floor buildings, with the same family. Just imagine when you're living with your extended family and all of a sudden, one-ton bomb or two ton-bomb just dropped on top of your home without any warning, without you doing anything wrong. You're just sitting there. And the whole family just vanishes. Due to these relentless and inhumane bombings, we have 75 families completely were vanished from the civil registry here, and more than 500 families other [were affected (?)].

Just today, in addition to the child that you mentioned in the beginning of your program who was killed this morning, we have four people who were killed this afternoon. They're cousins from Abu /hada/ family in Khan Yunis. They were attacked near the market. They were going shopping with their friends. So six were injured from the same family and three were killed.

Another attack, in Zatoun area, where 22 members of the same family were buried under the rubble. And they're still retrieve the bodies of the injured and the dead people killed this morning. So this war is not exempting any part of Gaza Strip to be immune against attack, which make it an inhumane war, a war in civilization, a war in people who are just civilians, [merely (?)] civilians. When you're speaking about 450 kids under the age of 16 being massacred over one month, this is completely a heinous crime against humanity, when you're speaking about more than 260 women being killed, when you're speaking about elderly above the age of 80--we have more than 90 who were killed. This is unbelievable. And I think President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron from the U.K. and all world leaders should act and act now to stop this crazy war and stop it once and for all.

TARACHANSKY: So another thing that gives this war the sense that it's over, at least on the Israeli side, is that the army today started investigations into various incidents that were controversial during the war. This is something Israel does every time after a military operation, and the internal army investigations, as you can assume, have 96 percent dismissal rate, which means that almost none of the investigations ever lead to an actual investigator going and doing the research. Most of them just get dismissed. In Cast Lead, the only soldier that ever went to jail for anything committed during the war--and you have to remember there was a widespread violations of the laws of international warfare, both according to the UN and according to Human Rights Watch--only one soldier went to jail for six months for stealing a credit card from a Palestinian family. So these investigations are not very promising. And there was again, of course, violations of the laws of warfare in this war.

And another very important thing happened is that the parliament is going to pass in the coming weeks a new law that will redefine Gaza from a hostile territory, which is how Israel defines the Gaza Strip today and which is why it can hold, by its own laws, the siege on the Gaza Strip, it's going to now classify it an enemy territory, therefore clearing itself of any violations that were done to the people of Gaza and basically making any claims for reparations for damage to homes that were hit accidentally invalid. And this law, whenever it's going to pass into effect, this reckless reclassification, in the current version of the proposal it is going to go into effect retroactively, starting on July 7, the day before the war started. So, basically what we're having here is that Israel launched a full-blown assault on the Gaza Strip, having killed--73 percent of the people killed are civilians. Of them 260 are women, 79 are elderly, and more than 430 children. And according to the current loss of warfare, in Israel at least, if you are a civilian that was hit accidentally or your home was destroyed accidentally, you can claim damages. Now Israel is saying, we're clearing ourselves of all responsibility; no one will be able to hold us accountable for anything we did, because we are now calling Gaza an enemy territory, and in effect we're putting the law into effect retroactively.

WORONCZUK: Okay. Lia Tarachansky, and Dr. Khamis Elessi, thank you both for joining us.

ELESSI: Thank you very much. Thank you.

WORONCZUK: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

Jordanian artist Amjad Rasmi
Jordanian artist Amjad Rasmi

This was first published at The Real News.