Women's Voices: Suhaila T. - Gaza women
Name: Suhaila T.
Date of incident: 19 November 2012
Nature of incident: Aerial bombardment
The director of a hospital in Gaza run by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem describes the challenges of running a hospital under blockade conditions; life in Gaza for a Christian woman; and the day an Israeli bomb exploded in her garden.
Suhaila is the director of the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, one of four hospitals in Gaza city run by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. The hospital has 80 beds with an average occupancy rate of nearly 80 percent. The hospital offers free-of-charge early detection of breast cancer for women above 40; runs a centre for elderly women; and operates a mobile clinic programme in addition to receiving thousands of out-patient visits, hundreds of surgeries and thousands of lab tests a month.
“The hospital operates under very difficult circumstances in one of the most troubled places in the region,” says Suhaila. “The siege imposed by the Israeli government since 2006 has affected our ability to operate and to provide good medical services to our patients. Frequent power cuts, fuel shortages in addition to restrictions imposed on importing new equipment, spare parts and certain types of medications are just a few examples of the challenges we face. Most of the cancer patients require chemo and radio therapy in hospitals outside Gaza and patients need special permits to be allowed to travel.”
“I come from a Palestinian Christian family background and I live by myself in an old house which my family has owned for more than 60 years in the heart of Gaza city. There are many Christians where I live. I have never had any problems being a Christian living in Gaza,” says Suhaila.
“On 19 November, 2012 I was at home and some of my relatives came to visit me to check if I needed anything. At around 11:30 a.m., just when my relatives left, I heard a loud explosion. The sound was different from other explosions which have become so common in Gaza these days since the recent round of violence started five days ago. I looked out and saw a thick column of black smoke just outside my house. It took me a few seconds to realise that a missile had landed in my backyard. I was in shock and couldn’t believe I had escaped unharmed. All the windows in my house were broken and the kitchen cupboards damaged. My bedroom was a real mess; dust and broken glass everywhere and it looked as if a bomb had exploded inside the room. I have no idea what the Israeli’s were aiming at when they fired the missile at this densely populated part of down town Gaza,” says Suhaila.
“Three young men from my neighbourhood came to check on me and to help me clear some of the broken glass. I went out to the backyard and saw a five-meter crater in the place where the missile had landed. This was the first time I ever felt my life was in danger. I took some personal belongings in a hand bag and left the house to be with my cousin’s family where I thought it was safer for me to stay.”
“a night later, on 20 November, I went to bed early at my cousin’s house when I was suddenly woken up by the sound of another loud explosion. I was covered in glass from the broken window in the bedroom. I was terrified. I then realised that my face was bleeding. My cousin took me to the hospital where I was given first aid. I needed to have two stitches in my lip and was discharged the same day. It is not clear to us why the neighbourhood where my cousin lives was targeted by Israeli fighter jets. No neighbourhood is safe and no house is immune. There is no place to hide.”
According to the UN and media sources, between 14 and 22 November 2012, 163 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed. According to the same sources, at least 103 of the Palestinian fatalities (63 percent) were civilians, including 13 women (8 percent) and 33 children (20 percent).