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Home > News & Analysis > Analysis
Interview with Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish
Ynet News, Feb 20, 2009

A doctor treats a Palestinian child at a United Nations school where Palestinians are taking shelter after Israel air strikes destroyed their homes in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. (Hatem Omar, Maan Images)

One of the most dramatic and tragic stories to emerge from the 22 days of fighting in January 2009 between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip occurred on January 16 when three daughters and a niece of Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish died as a result of Israeli shelling. The tragedy resonated deeply in both the Israeli and Palestinian communities because Dr. Ezzeldeen, a gynaecologist who lives in Gaza and works in a hospital there, was previously at Beersheba's Soroka University Medical Center where his specialty was in vitro fertilization.

The Media Line (TML): When your home was struck, your reaction was to phone a leading Israeli journalist and plead for help. All of Israel heard that frantic call. What happened next?

Dr. Abu al-Aish: When I was called, I was "spaced-out." I thought of my daughters and my niece and the other casualties, and wondered how I could save their lives. I would like to thank everyone, including the Beersheba Medical Center, who helped in transferring the casualties and were part of saving their lives. At that moment (of the bombing), I was just in front of the building and couldn't get to the main street. My son said to me, "Don't go to the road, otherwise you will be killed. Dad, stay for us." But as a medical doctor, thinking of casualties and that time was vital, what else could I do? My heart was torn out. How will my 12-year-old son cope with the loss of his beloved three sisters, especially the eldest, Bessan, who was a mother, a sister, everything to him?

TML: How did your wife die?

Dr. Abu al-Aish: My wife died on the 16th of September, 2008 and my daughters were killed on the 16th of January, 2009. My wife died of acute leukemia. It was sudden; she died in two weeks.

TML: Where was she treated?

Dr. Abu al-Aish: At the Beersheba Medical Center hospital.

TML: The Israel Defense Forces said they warned you to leave the home. Did you get a notification? Did you get a call from the IDF asking you to leave because of what was happening in Gaza?
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Dr. Abu al-Aish: It is painful to hear this lie. We should stop such fabrications. If we are serious about finding a solution (to the Israeli-Palestinian problem) we should be honest with each other, not find excuses. No one contacted me to tell me to leave. They sent pamphlets but not to our area. I think it's your responsibility to go to the area there and to ask if they or anyone else contacted me, or if anyone has the courage to face me and to say that we contacted you, Ezzeldeen.

TML: The Golani Brigade Force claimed that there were all kinds of shelling and firing coming from near your home and that they thought they saw people on your rooftop. How do you respond to that?

Dr. Abu al-Aish: Good. Yes. That's what they said. But they didn't listen to me. If they saw snipers on the roof, why didn't they shoot at the roof?

TML: The picture of the building of your home?

Dr. Abu al-Aish: Is it clear? Did they see snipers, armed people?

TML: Were there any other people living in the other apartments?

Dr. Abu al-Aish: Only my brothers. It's a private building.

TML: Were any other apartments attacked?

Dr. Abu al-Aish: Only one room was attacked. What I want to stress again: if there were snipers and they saw the snipers, why they did not shoot at the snipers on the roof?

TML: And there were no other apartments that were shot at?

Dr. Abu al-Aish: No other place was shot at. No one was killed other than my girls. And no armed people were in the area. I can confirm that and repeat it thousands of times. There were snipers and there were armed people? I have snipers. My daughters were expert snipers in achieving their goals, in achieving their dreams. That's how I trained them: to be snipers, to achieve their dreams. And to be focused.

TML: There was overwhelming response to help you when you frantically made that call as soon as the shelling erupted and your daughters were killed, and it seems that the Israeli population listened and the IDF helped to evacuate you for treatment.

Dr. Abu al-Aish: It was not the IDF who evacuated me.

TML: How did you get to the hospital?

Dr. Abu al-Aish: By walking. I walked until I arrived at the hospital and it was the Palestinian boys who took risks to get the casualties to the hospital, and who walked about a kilometer until the Palestinian ambulances came to the hospital. We moved the Palestinian ambulances to the Israeli side where we met the Israeli MADA ambulances, which were ready and evacuated the casualties.

TML: Was there any resistance from the Israeli side in bringing you to the hospital? Did they check to see who they were bringing?

Dr. Abu al-Aish: No. They made everything feasible and easy for the movement and transfer of the patients. And I fully appreciate that and am thankful to everyone who helped in saving lives.

TML: Are there many patients who were able to be treated on the Israeli side?

Dr. Abu al-Aish: You can ask them (the Israeli authorities). I can't. I'm not in a position to because I was not the one who was coordinating these issues. But on the other issue, concerning what you mentioned earlier: in the past eight years of this intifada, no rockets were fired from my neighborhood. After eight years why choose this time to shell us? I think it's your responsibility as the media to defend the truth, if you are doing a holy job, not just to catch words, to be serious about it, to investigate it and go deep, and to face reality. And if someone says something different, it's a lie. It's false.

To read the full interview, please visit Ynet News.

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