It is now 4 days since we returned from our trip to Gaza /Cairo. Have been awaiting my respected elders/colleagues) to input first but since there appears none forthcoming, I will write my thoughts and experience and humbly request them to correct or input as necessary. (Pleae note These are my own personal views and do not represent any organisation including MERCY Malaysia. Please forward with discretion )
We left on a MERCY Malaysia mission on the 27th of January ( 8days after unilateral truce by Israel) after filling up our wills in sealed envelopes. Sent off by The MERCY office team,Dr Faizal Perdaus (acting Prez MERCY) our families and Dr Musa (x prez PPIM). The team consisted of Prof Hatta Shahrom (x PPIM president), Dr Fauziah Hassan (O&G, APSH,x treasurer,MERCY Malaysia), Dr Norherah, (Family practitioner) , Ms Reem Bashir( a sudanese psychologist) . After a 12 hour flight, 2 hrs stop ( no deplane in mumbai) we arrived in Cairo at 5 am on the 28th. Immediate briefing and off we were to the Rafah border about 4 hrs away except our driver got lost and we got a free tour of the sinai and the Suez canal. We finally reached the Rafah Egyptian border crossing at 430 pm. After 40 mins (which is like a record ,as most people who try to get into Gaza never manage to, and those who do wait hours to days on end, many leave for home with just having seen this border crossing.) we were through Egyptian Immigration. We praise Allah for everything.
We entered Gaza with the Azan of magrib at abt 530pm with the MERCY logistics officer En Hapis. On hand to greet us were Dr Ikram (Anaes Lecturer CUCMS) and Dr Al Amin(Surgeon Tawakal) who were the initial team in.(they had come in the day of the truce or just after). We proceeded to Palestinian immigration and were welcomed warmly. Prof Hatta even managed to get a soda from one of the officers. We then went to our lodgings and met the previous team under Dr Heng.,Drs Lai, Azlina, Asmarawati, Khairol, Shamsul.
Dr Azhar Abdul Aziz (x VP MERCY )who had come with the Qatar team was also there. I had tried to meet him in Kl last summer but Allah planned for us to meet in war torn Gaza.
We had been assigned to Nasser hospital,in Khan Younis, 20 mins north of Rafah, named after the Egytian prez who had funded it. 300 bed and handled 500 patients during the Israeli aggression. Some department good, most run down. Many equipment down as no spare parts allowed in and no maintenance. The only equipment working in physiotherapy was the manual one and one traction. The rest were all broken down. The ECG, EST machines etc were ancient. Dr Fauziah,Dr Norhera surved the OG departemt and other O&G hospitals and saw areas that needed improvement. Prof Hatta and Ms Reem were taken on trips to asess the psychosocial needs of the Gazans.
On the first day there was a drone attack in front of the hospital. Maybe 10-15 m from where I was doing my rounds. There was a loud bang, flames and massive smoke. 2 mujahidin on a motor bike had been targeted by the drone. Both survived alhamdulillah altho one had to go to Ot. 2 other passers by were also sent to OT.13 kids who were around had to be treated for shrapnel wounds. Prof Hatta who had gone to A&E noted that the children were stoic and did not cry even though they were in obvious pain. Most treated as outpatients. This was during a supposed truce. Death is very near in Gaza.
We toured the areas of destruction and I found comparison with the Earthquate in Adapazari in Turkey where we had also been on a MERCY mission. Whole blocks were flattend. Olive groves were uprooted, schools, Universities, mosques were not spared. Parliament was destroyrd.Even UN schools,building were damaged.The Islamic Universtity of Gaza had two blocks that housed 75 labs totally destroyd. They ahd just acquired some DNA machines abt 3 million worth as they have quite bit of genetic disease in Palestine.These wrere destroyed. The dean of Medicine was an old friend from my days in Dublin. Holds an Irish passport but when asked to evacute by the Irish ambasador in Tel Aviv he refused.Indeed we were told that when the borders were opened Gazans came back instead of leaving for Egypt..” This is our land, we were born here and we will die here was what they said.”
The mosques in front of Shifa hospital was just a pile of rubble with a fruit carton written on it masjid Shifa. The new wing of the hospital had also been hit. This hospital had been taking the brunt of the casualties. They have a collection of gruesome slides of the victims, killed, maimed, kids adults, women.. At the height of the conflict they were taking in 200 patients an hour.
The homes of ordinary Gazans were also piles of rubble. Some had just been built. They had moved to relatives homes or had to erect temporrary shelters.one was just the black plastic sheeting It was winter and I was wrapped in 4 layers. I wonderd how they coped especially the kids. May Allah always protect them.
Everywhere we went were greeted very warmly that we were feeling guilty. We would be served good food altho I dont believe they themselves were taking as good as they were serving their guests. This was true Muslim Arab hospitality. In severe adversity , guests were still treated well. May Allah increase His bounty on them.
We heard stories of the mujahideen and the help that Alllah had sent them. Malaikat had come and fought with them. One mujahid had been blown up to pieces and the only piece of him left had a beautiful aroma that was smelt by all the villager who had come. They would be hiding and waiting for the enemy for days surviving only on water and dates. Tanks would blow up and their explosives still be intact. A mujahid heard a voice telling him to wait in his hiding place till he had a chance to strike the enemy,which he did. The enemy claimed that they had fought with ghosts and with people in white uniforms. The mujahideen did not wear white uniforms. May Allah always be with the steadfast.
The thing that struck us most was their spirit. Indeed they were carrying on as normal a life as they could. As much as the enemy wanted them to surrender and cower they stood firm and fought. For 23 days they were bombarded from sea,land and air and they were steadfast. The craters made by F 16 bombs were nearly two storeys high! The enemy with 500 tanks could not enter the cities except fight at the peripheries. In the 6 day war(1967) 3 Arab nations were defeated in 6 days! We were told that there were even weddings during the onslaught. Children were playing football and were trying to go to school. May Allah continue to be with them.
We met amazing people. A lady we met told us that after the enemy had bombed the mosques her 14 year old son would pray every prayer in the mosque for he wished to be syahid while worshipping Allah. She had told him that if he decided to become a mujahid himself he must tell her so as for her to make doa for him and not find out only when he was syahid. Prof Hatta/Ms Reem were offered bowls of soup by a refugee grandma who had her grandson syahid. She was sitting amongst a pile of rubble that had been her abode. After relating her story to them and crying a minute she offered the little food she had to them. May Allah alleviatee all their suffering!
Everytime we asked “what can we do for you?” The answer would be;
“Please do not stop making doa for us”.
They did not ask for money or food or anything material only that we do not stop beseeching Allah to help them in their struggle against a merciless enemy.
We met with persons who told us “We promise you three things:-
- We will defend this land
- We will liberate this land
- We will pray with you in Al Aqsa one day soon”
Medically the Drs are quite a lot. They however have not been able to leave Gaza for training and some of them had not been out for 10-12 years,.They thus need help in training. Equipment needs to be upgraded and new equipment added. InsyaAllah we have made these recommendations to MERCY Malaysia. There is also plan to build a rehab centre in south Gaza. There is a state of the art one in North Gaza that was damaged but still functioning. There is also plan to setup a MERCY Malaysia-Palestine psychosocial centre.
We were supposed to stay till the 4th February but were asked to evacuate as there was worry about increased bombings.There had been one near our lodgings the day after we arrived. On midnite of the 1st we received sms and calls from the embassy,and MERCY base camp Cairo for us to evacuate asap. We heard six bombs dropped by F16s near the house and the house shuddered with the explosions. We moved to the ground floor and evacuated the next day back to cairo.
We had few more meetings to attend and a few more things to do but fate was such that we had to leave. We could leave when things got hot but the Gazans cannot. As Mr Ging , UN officer in Gaza said , “There is no safe place in Gaza”.
Indeed, Death is close in Gaza or tis the shortest path to Jannah
I wish to record my gratitude to
- Our understanding families who had understood the need for us to go
- MERCY Malaysia for providing the opportunity
- The MERCY team in Cairo
- The Malaysia Embassy in Cairo who had been amazingly helpful in facilitating our entry into Gaza especially En Fauzi
- My extraordinary teammates, May Allah bless them all.