Red Cross workers angry at violation of humanitarian law

Traprock’s coverage of July 24th protest

original Star article

Red Cross workers angry at violation of humanitarian law
July 25, 2006 Edition 4

Tyre, Lebanon – Three dirty bandages hide the worst of Zainab Jawad’s swollen and bloodied nose. Her arm – fractured in two places – is strapped to her chest.

Stretched out on a hospital bed, the 8-year-old squeezes shut her brown eyes as she fights back sobs at Tyre’s Najem Hospital.

On Sunday, Israeli bombs destroyed her family’s home in the southern Lebanese village of Ayta Chaeb. Then rockets hit the car as they fled.

“What I remember most is the sound, the sound of the planes and I was scared because I thought there were so many,” she says. “I fell asleep last night, but all I could hear in my sleep were planes.”

Zainab’s aunt is in the next bed. Her mother, Usra, and 4-year-old brother, Mohammed, are in a room nearby. The boy’s leg is in a cast to his hip. His mother’s leg is in traction after steel pins were installed in several places.

When the bombing started, Usra and her three sisters fled with the two children. They were headed for Basariya, north of Tyre, but 3km from the port city rockets hit their car. Two sisters, both teachers, were killed.

Jawad Najem, a surgeon at the hospital, says patients admitted on Sunday were burn cases that resulted from phosphorus incendiary weapons.

The Geneva Conventions ban using white phosphorous as an incendiary weapon against civilian populations and in air attacks against military forces in civilian areas. The Israeli military says its use of weapons “conforms with international law”.

It also says it warned all residents to leave areas that have been targeted.

“The IDF (army) operates solely against terrorist organisations and terror infrastructure. The responsibility for endangering (the) civilian population rests on the Hezbollah terror organisation,” the military said in a statement.

Najem said he had also treated a 14-year-old boy, Mahmoud Sarour, for phosphorus burns to his face. His 8-month-old sister, Maryam, also suffered similar burns to her neck and hands when an Israeli rocket hit her family’s car just 1km from the hospital.

The children were with their father, mother and other family members when their car was hit by an Israeli missile. The father died instantly.

The Sarour family were evacuated yesterday from Tyre on the Princesa Marrisa, a ferry chartered by Germany to rescue expatriates trapped in the south. They were taken to Larcana, Cyprus.

The Sarours were taken by taxi to the Tyre port because the Lebanese Red Cross had suspended operations outside the city proper because Israeli jets on Sunday blasted two ambulances with rockets, said Ali Deebe, a Red Cross spokesperson in Tyre.

One ambulance had gone south of Tyre to meet an incoming ambulance and transfer the wounded onward to the hospital.

The rocket, Deebe said, had wounded six ambulance workers and three civilians – an 11- year-old boy, an elderly woman and a man.

“One of the rockets hit right in the middle of the big red cross that was painted on top of the ambulance. This is a clear violation of humanitarian law, of international law,” he said.

Kassem Shalan, one of the ambulance workers, said nine ambulance workers had been hurt in the attack.

Amateur video provided by an ambulance worker confirmed Deebe’s account of damage to the ambulances, showing one large hole and several smaller ones in the roof of one ambulance and a very large hole in the roof of the second ambulance. Both vehicles were destroyed.

Israeli rockets have been hitting around Najem Hospital for most of the past two weeks, said Inaya Haydar, the hospital’s director of nursing.

She said she had not left the hospital in 13 days. – Sapa-AP