Jordanian volunteer doctor speaks of ‘strange’ burns
Palestinian men pull a man injured in the Zeitun district of Gaza City following Israeli strikes on Monday (AFP photo)
By Omar Obeidat and AFP
AMMAN –– Jordanian doctors in the Shifa Hospital in Gaza say that they have to deal with burns they have never seen before as they treat Palestinians wounded in Israel’s 17-day-old offensive in the besieged coastal enclave of 1.5 million inhabitants.
Bassem Kiswani, a surgeon, described the situation in Gaza’s largest hospital, Shifaa, as “tragic” due to the “strange” injuries and the large number of wounded people, particularly children.
More than 3,800 people are receiving treatment for injuries they sustained in the attacks.
“There are hundreds of wounded children at the hospital suffering various types of injuries such as burns, suffocation and organ failure,” the volunteer noted in a telephone interview from Gaza.
He added that the doctors dealing with these cases are documenting their observation for future use.
“The only explanation we have is that Israel is using internationally banned weapons such as white phosphorus,” Kiswani told The Jordan Times on Monday.
The Israeli army on Monday insisted that all weapons being used in its Gaza campaign were within the bounds of international law amid accusations it was using the controversial white phosphorus shells, according to Agence France-Presse.
An army spokesman refused to confirm or deny the claim and insisted that everything being used was sanctioned by the international law.
Kiswani indicated that some injured children had to have their legs amputated above the knee, while bodies arrived in the hospital completely charred.
Other doctors who worked in Gaza hospitals had similar observations.
Israel is testing a new "extremely nasty" type of weapon in Gaza, two medics charged as they returned home to Norway yesterday after spending 10 days working at a hospital in the war-torn Palestinian territory.
"There's a very strong suspicion I think that Gaza is now being used as a test laboratory for new weapons," Mads Gilbert told reporters at Oslo's Gardermoen Airport, commenting on the kinds of injuries he and his colleague Erik Fosse had seen while working at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza.
The two medics, who were sent into the war zone by the aid organisation NORWAC on December 31, said they had seen clear signs that Dense Inert Metal Explosives (DIME), an experimental kind of explosive, were being used in Gaza.
"This is a new generation of very powerful small explosives that detonates with an extreme power and dissipates its power within a range of five to 10 metres, said Gilbert, 61.
"We have not seen the casualties affected directly by the bomb because they are normally torn to pieces and do not survive, but we have seen a number of very brutal amputations... without shrapnel injuries which we strongly suspect must have been caused by the DIME weapons," he added.
And Yusef Abu Rish, a doctor at Gaza City's Nasser Hospital, said he had treated at least 55 people suffering burns caused by controversial white phosphorus shells.
Under international law, white phosphorus is banned for use against civilians, but is permitted if used for creating a smokescreen.
Earlier, Human Rights Watch had slammed Israel's use of white phosphorus which it said had been used in areas of Gaza City and the northern district of Jabaliya.
Gaza hospitals are short of the medical equipment, medicine and crew enough to handle the situation as casualties rise, Kiswani noted.
He said that the hospital cannot accommodate the increasing number of injured civilians, and called for on-field hospitals to be available in Gaza.
He told stories of the human sufferings of the wounded and their families.
“We treated an eight-year-old child who was blinded by shrapnel to the face and the child was trying to calm his parents down, yet asking why none has been able to stop the aggression,” Kiswani, who heads the Jordanian medical voluntary team, added.
On Sunday, seven Jordanian doctors arrived in the Gaza Strip through Rafah crossing and currently work at the Shifa Hospital. They were the only Jordanian physicians who made it to the war-stricken enclave from among scores of colleagues who volunteered for the humanitarian mission.
According to an official from the Jordan Medical Association (JMA) the medical delegation consists of two orthopaedic surgeons, three general surgeons, a plastic surgery specialist and a paediatrician.
Mahmoud Jabr, who accompanied the delegation to the Rafah border crossing, said that more than 180 Jordanian doctors volunteered to work in the besieged Gaza Strip, adding that JMA also donated an X-ray machine worth $700,000 to the Shifa Hospital in the coastal enclave.
The JMA official added that the Jordanian Foreign Ministry and the Kingdom’s embassy in Cairo are arranging to facilitate the entry of a second batch of Jordanian doctors to the enclave.
Meanwhile, President of the Jordan Nurses and Midwives Association (JNMA) Mohammad Hatamleh told The Jordan Times that a total of 100 nurses are expected to arrive in Gaza within the next two days.
“JNMA have selected 270 out of 900 nurses who volunteered to work in Gaza hospitals to help their Palestinian brothers,” Hatamleh indicated.