‘Why is the World Doing Nothing?’ – Cluster Bomb Attack by the Syrian Army in Aleppo

A child in a field hospital in Aleppo, Syria after sustaining injuries in a cluster bomb attack by the Syrian armed forces on a residential area on March 1, 2013.

A child in a field hospital in Aleppo, Syria after sustaining injuries in a cluster bomb attack by the Syrian armed forces on a residential area on March 1, 2013.

By Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Adviser

In a field hospital, which I won’t name for security reasons – too many field hospitals have been bombed already – a little boy of 7, Abdo al-Dik, was shaking like a leaf and moaning in pain with deep lacerations to his abdomen and legs.

Relatives had just collected his 3-year-old brother Nizar’s body for burial. Another brother, 8-year-old Subhi, was still missing as of 6 p.m.

In the same hospital room, 6-year-old Mustafa Ali was lying in a bed with shrapnel injuries to the head, neck and shoulders – alone and waiting for someone from his family to come find him. He told me that he was visiting his relatives when the air strike happened; a neighbor said that the child’s relatives were badly injured and he did not know whether they had survived.


Tensions rise in Benghazi as al-Gaddafi forces mount attacks



By Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International crisis researcher.

Despite the ceasefire Benghazi is still under attack from al-Gaddafi loyalists © Al Jazeera English

The situation has significantly deteriorated in Benghazi and elsewhere in eastern Libya in the past few days. Since yesterday, while Colonel al-Gaddafi’s spokespeople reiterate that their forces are observing a ceasefire, armed al-Gaddafi loyalists – who people identify as members of the lijan thawriya (Revolutionary Committees), groups of loyalists who acted as informers and intelligence gatherers, among other tasks, and were omnipresent in towns and villages all over Libya – have sprung into action in the city, carrying out targeted and indiscriminate armed attacks.

These individuals are seemingly acting in small groups and appear to be composed of al-Gaddafi loyalists who have been keeping a low profile since last month’s takeover of the eastern towns by pro-reform demonstrators (some here refer to these as “sleeper cells”) and who have possibly been joined by other al-Gaddafi loyalists or members of armed forces loyal to al-Gaddafi who entered the towns pretending to be ordinary people.

Such ways of operating are extremely difficult to monitor. Among the victims of such attacks is a family of three – a child and his parents – who were shot in the town on Saturday (19 March). SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Al Jazeera Video on AI Mission

In a moving story on Al Jazeera English, Amnesty International researcher Donatella Rovera walks through a bombed out home in Gaza and discusses how AI has found evidence that Israel fired into civilian areas.

Amnesty International has called upon the US to investigate possible war crimes committed by Israel and Hamas.

In other news, the UN has halted aid after it learned that supplies were seized by Hamas.  Meanwhile Arab TV stations have reported that a Lebanese ship carrying aid was fired upon by Israel. The Guardian reports:

A Lebanese boat said to be carrying ­humanitarian aid but which Israel claims is carrying activists, has been intercepted by the Israeli navy on its way to the Gaza Strip.

Reporters from the Arab TV stations al-Jadeed and al-Jazeera, who were on the vessel, said the Israelis fired at the ship before boarding it and beating the crew. The journalists said they were unable to show pictures of the incident as the Israeli force smashed their broadcast equipment.

At the moment, an estimated 80% of Palestinians in Gaza depend on UN assistance for food.

Attacks on Ambulance Workers

(As originally Posted to Livewire)

gaza-ambulance-missileTuesday, 27 January: Under the Geneva Conventions, medical personnel searching, collecting, transporting or treating the wounded should be protected and respected in all circumstances. Common Article 3 of the Conventions says that the wounded should be collected and cared for, including combatants who are hors de combat.

These provisions of international law have not been respected during the recent three-week conflict in the Gaza Strip. Emergency medical rescue workers, including doctors, paramedics and ambulance drivers, repeatedly came under fire from Israeli forces while they were carrying out their duties. At least seven were killed and more than 20 were injured while they were transporting or attempting to collect the wounded and the dead.

In one case Arafa Hani Abd-al-Dayam, a paramedic, was killed by flechettes, tiny metal darts packed 5-8,000 to a shell, which should never be used in civilian areas (see yesterday’s post).

On 4 January 2009, an ambulance arrived about 15 minutes after a missile strike in Beit Lahiya that apparently targeted five unarmed young men. It was hit a few minutes later by a tank shell filled with flechettes.

Two paramedics were seriously wounded in the incident. One of them, Arafa Hani Abd-al-Dayam, later died. Examining the wall of the shop beside where the ambulance had been, we found it pierced by hundreds of these darts.

In another case, three paramedics in their mid 20s – Anas Fadhel Na’im, Yaser Kamal Shbeir, and Raf’at Abd al-‘Al – were killed in the early afternoon of 4 January in Gaza City as they walked through a small field on their way to rescue two wounded men in a nearby orchard. A 12-year-old boy, Omar Ahmad al-Barade’e, who was standing near his home indicating to the paramedic the place where the wounded were, was also killed in the same strike.

Label on the remains of a missile that killed three paramedics and a child ©Amnesty International
We went to the scene of the incident with the two ambulance drivers who had accompanied the paramedics and who had witnessed the attack. There we met the child’s distraught mother and we found the remains of the missile that killed the three paramedics and the child. The label reads “guided missile, surface attack” and the USA is mentioned as the weapon’s country of provenance.

After the four were killed in the missile strike, their bodies could not be removed for two days as the ambulances crews who tried to approach the site again came under fire from Israeli forces and could not approach.gaza-missile-label

In yet another case, on 12 January, several ambulances arrived rapidly after a six-storey apartment building had been hit by two missiles. Local residents were already trying to evacuate bodies of wounded and dead from the upper floors.

Dr Issa Abdel Rahim Saleh and a paramedic, Ahmad Abdel Bari Abu Foul, were the first emergency medical workers at the scene and started evacuating the wounded. However, as they climbed down the stairs between the sixth and fifth floor an Israeli tank shell came through a window, slicing through the head and body of Dr Saleh who was standing on the landing.

With several ambulances in the street below, and paramedics plainly visible by their phosphorescent jackets, it must have been clear to the Israeli surveillance drones hovering above the area and the tank crews a few kilometres away in the Jabal Raiss area that there were medics in the house, yet they fired nevertheless.

Originally posted to Livewire by Donatella Rovera, Middle East & North Africa Researcher at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International in London

On the ground in Gaza

An Amnesty International delegation recently entered Gaza shortly before Israeli attacks ended to document the true scale of devastation wrought on civilians.  Amnesty researcher Donatella Rovera has been keeping a dairy of their findings.  Here is a excerpt from an entry she posted earlier this week to Livewire:

Today, Tuesday, it seemed as though Gaza was beginning to draw a collective breath after the shock of the past three weeks of Israeli bombardments. The streets, previously deserted, filled up again and tens of thousands of people who had fled their homes for fear of Israeli attacks began returning to them. But thousands have no homes to which to return because so many were destroyed by Israeli forces.

In Gaza City’s Zaitoun neighbourhood, where scores of homes were flattened by Israeli air strikes and bulldozers women and children were rummaging through the rubble of their homes, trying to recover the little that could be salvaged.

At a mourning tent amidst the rubble the surviving member of the Sammouni family received condolences and recited prayers for their 29 relatives killed by Israeli forces. Salah Sammouni told us that Israeli soldiers had evicted them from their home, which they then used as a military base, and told them to stay in their relatives’ house across the road, only to bomb it the following day.

Some died on the spot, they said, while others were left to die, as the Israeli army did not allow the ambulances to approach the house to evacuate the wounded for several days.

We then visited the Qishqu and al-Daya families whose homes were both destroyed by Israeli bombardments. ‘Abdallah Qishqu, whose house was destroyed by an Israeli air strike on 28 December, told us that his wife, who was seriously injured in the attack, still does not know that their eight-year-old daughter, Ibtihal, was killed in the explosion together with their daughter-in-law, Maisa.

At the Shifa hospital, Gaza’s main hospital, the head of the Burns Unit told us that when the first patients with phosphorus burns were brought in, doctors in the Burns Unit did not realise what had caused the injuries.

“The first thing we noticed were cases with orange burns, different from the burns we are used to dealing with. They started with patches and after a while they would become deeper with an offensive odour and after several hours smoke started coming from the wound,” the doctor said.

“We had a child of three years with a head injury. After three hours we changed the dressing and saw smoke coming out of the wound. We opened the wound and brought out this wedge. We had not seen it before. Later on, some colleagues, doctors from Egypt and Norway, were able to enter Gaza and told us that this was white phosphorus.

“We noticed various things about this: the burn does not heal; the phosphorus may remain inside the body and goes on burning there, and the general condition of the patient deteriorates – normally with 10-15% burns, you would expect a cure, now many such patients die,” he said.

Other doctors from the hospital said they had seen patients with strange injuries that appeared to have been caused by unusual weapons (there is speculation that this may include Deep Inert Metal Explosive – DIME weapons) and which they did not know how to deal with. Patients who should be getting better were getting worse.