Julie Webb-Pullman reports

Posts tagged “Gaza

Pregnant women, newborns contaminated with heavy metals linked to Israeli attacks

Shujeiyah400-x-300

Newborn babies and their mothers exposed to Israeli attacks in 2014 have a high level of heavy metal contamination in their hair, reports a study published in the latest British Medical Journal (BMJ Open). The research was carried out in Gaza on 502 women who were pregnant at the time of the 2014 Israeli offensive.

Italian, Finnish and Gazan researchers analyzed the quantities of 23 kinds of metal in the hair of the women and the children they subsequently gave birth to, and compared them with the metal content in women’s hair outside of war zones. They also studied in utero transmission of heavy metals, as well as the hypothesis of contamination unrelated to war.

“Heavy metals used during wars are toxic, teratogenic and carcinogenic, and this study has shown they pose a health risk to pregnant women and their children, now and in the long-term” said lead researcher, Paola Manduca.

Teratogens disrupt the development of the embryo and can cause birth defects, while carcinogens can cause cancer.

“They are known as endocrine disruptors. They remain in the environment, remain in bodies and accumulate due to chronic exposure if their sources are not eliminated from the environment,” said Manduca.

Such sources include weapon remnants themselves, substances released during the explosion of missiles and shells, and contaminated ruins.

Using Plasma-Mass-coupled spectrometry (ICP-MS), the researchers made comparisons with groups exposed to domestic and agricultural chemicals.

Although women’s heavy metal load was higher than that of the newborns, it was not enough of a difference to protect the babies from harm: the study found an increase in birth defects and preterm births from 2011 data.

The rate of birth defects reported in the Gaza study was 4.5%, compared for example to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) figure of 3% for the United States – the Gaza rate is 50% higher.

Equally worrying, the study documented that the frequency of exposure to military attacks was about 70% in the random sample of 502 mothers, suggesting overall contamination of the entire population.

“Surveillance, bio-monitoring and further research on this subject is essential,” said Paola Manduca. “The risk of transgenerational genetic mutations can not be ruled out.”

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Remembering 2014

As we have reached the third anniversary of the most horrific months of my life, I am re-posting a record of a day in Gaza in July 2014

Noor

Noor Abu Jarad, survived but 8 of her family were killed

The scenes as I go to work each day are harrowing – I must walk past the morgue of Al Shifa Hospital. For the first few days I didn’t even realise it was the morgue – a few cars parked outside, small groups of people clustered against the walls, some obviously grieving – in the hospital grounds during a war, not an uncommon sight. But each day the numbers of cars, and of people grew, and one morning the stark reality of what it was hit me. As I walked a car drove past me and stopped, and a man approached it cradling a bright white tightly swaddled body in his arms, that of a very small child. I went around the car to let him through, and met men running with a stretcher with a covered body on it – or so I thought.

As they ran past, a bloodied limb fell onto the ground in front of me. It was not a body on the stretcher, but a collection of body parts – the horrific evidence of the type of weapons being used by Israel, some prohibited, others so new they are still in the testing stages – on Gaza civilians. Norwegian surgeons Mads Gilbert and Eric Fosse who are working in the hospital say they have never seen some of the injuries before, in 30 years of work in war zones.

I carry on, past the young men sitting sobbing against the wall, heads on knees. I can barely restrain my own tears.

The numbers outside the morgue swell, and subside, but the numbers inside continue to grow. Some days I can’t even get through, some days ambulances or cars arrive and bodies are removed in front of my eyes, while relatives scream, faint, or numbly watch as yet another family member is taken from them. The misery, the grief, the sheer human pain is overwhelming. And I walk on past, and go upstairs to report the dead and injured in facts and figures, my heart bursting, my soul shaken, and desperately trying to cling to that thing called humanity when there is so little evidence of it in what I have just seen.

I go upstairs and see the exhausted doctors and surgeons, who two weeks ago were healthy, vibrant human beings now reduced to haggard, pale ghosts of themselves, struggling to keep going, to provide care and save lives when there is so little care to provide, no medicines, no supplies, no equipment, and where lives that might be saved are lost to the sheer numbers demanding their attention. Doctors who must decide on the spot which patients live and which die, not because clinically they couldn’t all be saved, but because there are only resources enough for one.

Doctors, nurses and hospital staff who all now know that even in the hospitals they are not safe, because Israel is now deliberately attacking them.  Three hospitals have had to be evacuated since Thursday, seven hospital staff have already been killed or injured. Ambulance drivers and paramedics who know that when they go to retrieve the injured, they may not return – 12 ambulances have been destroyed, one driver killed and five ambulance officers injured. All in a day’s work – and these people have not been paid for months, they are doing this out of their own sense of compassion and duty.

I go to the wards to interview survivors and their families. One might think that this would be less traumatic – at least they are alive, there is hope. It is not – babies whose bodies are blasted with shrapnel so they look more like a pepper steak than a human baby, unconscious children with tubes going in and out crying for mothers and fathers who will never comfort them because they are dead, mothers sharing a room with several of their children, all sliced, diced, minced or shredded by Israeli arms made in or funded by the US, not knowing if or which of them will get out of there, and if and when they do, will they be able to walk, talk, feed themselves, study, work or have any semblance of the normal future she hoped for them. Fathers collapsed into themselves, wracked with guilt that they did not, could not, protect their family.

I walk outside, and the sky is blue, the sun is shining. Birds are even singing. I want to scream at them “Don’t you know what is happening?” I walk home beneath the ever-present drones, the sound of explosions almost keeping pace with my footsteps. I go back past the morgue, now shut up, and deserted – on the outside at least. A group of children run past carrying bottles of water, giggling and falling over, helping each other up. I pass the maternity ward, see a man in the street calling to his wife, who appears in a window and holds up their new-born baby for him to see.

I wonder, was this deliberate, the siting of the maternity unit next to the morgue? So that as one leaves, the affirmation of life is what remains?

After all, this is Gaza, where mere existence is resistance.


Hemaya: Gaza Inquiry appointments raise questions

PRESS RELEASE
Hemaya Center for Human Rights

hemaya logo (400 x 107)

Hemaya Center for Human Rights is deeply concerned about the events leading to the resignation of Professor William Schabas as Chair of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict, and his replacement by Ms Mary McGowan Davis.

We consider that best practice requires that potential conflicts of interest are explored PRIOR to appointment to such inquiries, and we are most concerned that this appears not to have been the case in regard to Professor Schabas. We remain concerned that it has also not been the case re Ms McGowan Davis, given her hasty appointment. (more…)


Huda hits Gaza hard

Laila

This storm Huda is truly the most terrifyingly noisy, bitterly cold and miserable storm imaginable.

Even in a house with fully-glazed windows shut, the wind whistles seemingly straight through them. Imagine how it is for the thousands of families with plastic (if it has not blown away), wood, rusty iron sheets for windows, or none at all – if I couldn’t sleep with four walls, a roof and theoretically intact windows then how could anyone with less? Imagine Gaza’s homeless’ night of bitter hopelessness…

The gusts were so strong I thought the windows were going to blow in. I could not decide whether to drag a mattress into the internal room away from the windows and risk my core body temperature dropping to a hypothermic level, or staying where I was huddled under a quilt and blanket, four layers of clothing and socks, with a coat on and a woollen shawl over my head, where at least I was maintaining an almost normal temperature. Imagine what it was like to be in the ruins of part-destroyed houses – maybe one or two walls, a bit of roof or nylon above your head if it hasn’t been ripped away by the wind – or even just a tent, which thousands of Gazans are forced to live in? With only the few clothes they were able to salvage from the dust and destruction of their homes?

Even with all my windows closed, the wind still forced the rain in, and it still lays in pools on the floor of two rooms. Even with internal doors closed and towels rolled and stuffed along the bottom to stop the draughts the towels literally flew across the floor halfway into the room. The wind even whistled between the joins in the wood of the doors. The internal room, even with all doors closed, was like a wind tunnel. Imagine a room with two walls…or none at all.

How can this family stay warm in this house in Beit Hanoun?

How can this family stay warm in this house in Beit Hanoun?

I took my chances and stayed in my bed – but I could not sleep – the noise was terrifying, the gusts battering against the glass, the rattling and tearing of the frames made any attempt at rest futile. Waiting for the windows to explode or the frames to be ripped from the walls was just like waiting for another Israeli missile during the last aggression – will THIS be the one that gets me? Imagine the families huddled together in the rubble, freezing, wind-battered, terrified, wondering which of them will not wake in the morning, which seems never to come…

Just like unified government. Just like reconstruction materials. Just like the lifting of the siege. Just like Palestinian rights. All promised but never delivered, like a day that never dawns.

Huda. Not just a storm, but an allegory.

The morning may now have broken, the winds died a little – but the bitter cold remains. And while the Palestinian Authority continues the tempest of its soft coup against Hamas, its collaboration with Israel and Egypt, and its apartheid policies against Gaza, there can be no thaw, no calm.

Like Huda, the PA is almost spent. The people who have survived will salvage what they can from the wreckage and work together to rebuild what it has destroyed. Only then can there be a sunny new day for Gaza – and Palestine.


Beit Hanoun: Homeless but not utterly hopeless, thanks to NZers

By Julie Webb-Pullman
Source: Gaza SCOOP

Receiving clothes, blankets and schoolbags in Beit Hanoun 30/11/14

Receiving clothes, blankets and schoolbags in Beit Hanoun 30/11/14

With the help of New Zealanders the Palestinian Family Charitable Association in Beit Hanoun has done it again – provided warm winter clothes and blankets for some of the neediest children in Gaza as the wintry weather begins to bite.

Not that there are very many children in Beit Hanoun who are not needy – 1,500 apartment blocks were destroyed in this town during the 51 day Israeli offensive in July-August, leaving many thousands homeless and their schools full of displaced families. (more…)


Football no fun anymore for the Bakr boys

by Julie Webb-Pullman
Source: Gaza SCOOP

Brothers Montasr (left) and Younis Khamis Bakr (Photo: Yousef Al Rantisi)

Brothers Montasr (left) and Younis Khamis Bakr (Photo: Yousef Al Rantisi)

Flashback. July 16, 2014.

Boys. Beach. Sun. Sea. Sand. Football. Fun. An ordinary summers’ day like that in any other coastal city in the world.

Bomb. Blood. Missile. Martyrs. Mayhem. Mourners. An ordinary summer’s day in Gaza 2014.

Three months later the world has all but forgotten the “Bakr Boys,” the group of cousins playing on the beach that afternoon. Four of them – Ismail, Zakaria, Ahed and Mohamed – were killed. Four more survived the horror, physically at least.

Montasr, Hamada, Sayed and Younis are all now out of hospital, and could even play football again, despite legs peppered with shrapnel scars. But they don’t. (more…)


Donors, or enablers? Cairo’s ‘Gaza Reconstruction Conference’

by Julie Webb-Pullman
Source: Middle East Monitor

Egypt is currently blocking injured Gazans leaving the Gaza Strip, and blocking the flow of reconstruction materials to Gaza

Egypt is currently blocking injured Gazans leaving the Gaza Strip, and blocking the flow of reconstruction materials to Gaza

CAIRO’S Gaza Reconstruction Conference, you ask incredulously? And well you might – after all, Egypt is currently preventing the entry of materials to complete Qatari-funded projects in Gaza addressing the destruction of previous Israeli offensives. Building of roads, housing estates and hospitals have all ground to a halt despite being underway well before the latest Israeli war crimes in Gaza – crimes which have only further increased the need. (more…)