Gaza: International Red Cross abandons residents during al-Shujayeh massacre

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Displaced Palestinians from al-Shujayeh neighborhood in the Gaza Strip rest on makeshift beds at the UN school where they and others have taken refuge after fleeing heavy fighting in their area, on July 21, 2014. (Photo: AFP - Marco Longari)

By: Orouba Othman

Published Monday, July 21, 2014

The Gaza Strip’s ordeal under the onslaught of the Israeli bombardment has unmasked international organizations that hide behind the cloak of humanism and protection of human life. Saturday night, corpses and body parts littered the streets and sidewalks of al-Shujayeh neighborhood, east of Gaza City, and blood flowed in its alleyways. But the International Red Cross did not move an inch upon learning of these macabre scenes. The international organization abandoned its responsibility towards the residents of al-Shujayeh in their darkest hour of need, to save its own skin. When residents of Gaza called the Red Cross asking for help to evacuate, their calls went unanswered.

Gaza – The international humanitarian organization passed the responsibility entrusted to it unto local rescue teams who put their lives on the line to reach the injured; trying to save their lives and evacuate them before it is too late. One paramedic even joined the martyrs he was trying to save in al-Shujayeh. While the Red Cross offered its condolences to the families of the three settlers that were killed in the Hebron operation, we see it today reneging on its responsibility to protect the lives of civilians in Gaza.

The Shujayeh massacre, which took the lives of over 70 martyrs, showed that the mottos of the International Committee of the Red Cross are nothing but empty rhetoric. This organization that has been tasked with protecting and assisting victims of armed conflict based on the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and its Two Additional Protocols of 1977, has exposed itself for what it is after showing “clear bias towards the Israelis,” as activists and journalists who were at al-Shifa medical complex said.

Before the war, the organization harped for years on its alleged neutrality, impartiality and advocacy for prisoners. But its decision to leave al-Shujayeh residents to face an Israeli death sentence on their own created a widespread state of popular discontent among Palestinians who considered the Red Cross complicit in the process of wiping them out.

“People are dying in the street, they don’t know what to do, houses are burning and gas is everywhere and the Red Cross hangs up on us and says, it’s not our job. If it is not the job of the Red Cross, then whose job is it? I don’t get it.” With these words and with a tone full of pain and rage, one of the people who witnessed the massacre appealed for help. Palestinians soon shared on social networking sites the desperate pleas he sent out through one of the local radio stations.

Numerous audio recordings appealing for help to evacuate the injured in al-Shujayeh after the International Red Cross failed to fulfil its duty.

Palestinians saw this incident as proof of the Red Cross’ apathy. This was confirmed by the survivors of the massacre. Al-Akhbar met some of the survivors who confirmed that the Red Cross ignored their repeated calls before the communication network stopped completely, isolating al-Shujayeh neighborhood from the outside world.

Hajja Omm Raafat Abu al-Qumbuz said: “Before the artillery shelling on the neighborhood intensified in the early morning hours, we tried to save ourselves and asked for help from the Red Cross but they did not answer our calls,” adding: “Woe to us, my children are under the rubble, send the ambulances. People bled to death in al-Shujayeh.” That is how the massacre began after sunset as Israeli artillery pounded the area at a rate of a shell every minute.

The shelling and dropping of flare bombs continued until the early hours of the morning. During the bombardment, news kept coming in that civilian homes were being targeted. Some of the people trapped under fire managed to make calls to journalists and aid workers at al-Shifa Hospital, who in turn tried to send ambulances to the scene but they came under Israeli artillery fire.

As time passed, journalists tried to call the Red Cross staff, but they did not answer their calls. When they finally managed to talk to someone, he said: “This isn’t our responsibility and the Israeli army prevented us from entering the area because it declared it a military zone,” as reported by someone who tried to reach the Red Cross.

When news of the Red Cross’ unresponsiveness appeared on websites, residents in the West Bank town of Hebron called the Red Cross’ main office in Jerusalem, but no one answered. Some Palestinian journalists living abroad tried to contact the Red Cross headquarters in Geneva. They were promised that ambulances will be sent to the area. But the International Red Cross did not keep its promise. Finally, the Palestinian Red Crescent tried to enter al-Shujayeh but they could not reach the injured. Their ambulances kept on waiting until the early morning hours when residents began leaving their homes.

Mudalala al-Dib told Al-Akhbar that her family tried for two continuous hours to call the Red Cross, but to no avail. As these pummeled families lost hope that the international organization was going to save them, they waited till the morning and fled on their own, escaping death for now.

Amid this popular condemnation of the Red Cross’ failure to fulfill its role, the organization tried to allay Palestinian anger by facilitating a humanitarian truce with the Israelis for two hours to pull the bodies from under the rubble in the neighborhood.

But Israel violated the truce after an hour of declaring it. The deadline was then extended until 5:30 pm after it was set from 1:00 pm until 3:00 pm. This attempt by the Red Cross to patch things up did not fool the Palestinians and did not stop them from pouring out their wrath on the organization.

After Al-Akhbar’s persistent efforts to reach the spokesperson of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the Gaza Strip, Nasser al-Najjar, his answer was not satisfactory for the families of the martyrs. Rejecting all the testimonies of the neighborhood’s residents, Najjar said: “We made several calls to the Israeli side to evacuate the injured and bring ambulances and civil defense forces to east Gaza city but Israeli firepower prevented us from completing our task.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

Do your research people. The red cross is one of the most corrupt organizations on the planet.
See how the facts layout especially the post ww2 eradication of Germans, like Ike's Operation Keelhaul along with many other democidal prejudices.

Author of the article... Where were you while the ICRC staff was trying to access the area? Where you risking your life to save the people?

Red Cross just have to be honest.
They are just slaves to the powerful, especially the cruel ones
like Jewish Israel and also USA.

When UN even hesitated to call for an investigation on war crimes committed by Israel, it shows a danger sign already.
The powerful ones like USA and Israel can just ignore any
war criminal charges, without even any investigation at all.

Prosecuting is already difficult as proven in so many cases with Israel, so now, even investigation is impossible.

The fools are those that obey the normal norms of humanity, like Ukraine and now Iran. The clever ones are North Korea, Pakistan and India, who are now nuclear.

North Korea may be poor, but look at Ukraine and Palestine? Which is better, to be poor or dead and dispossessed like Ukraine?

You just have to look at the facts. No wonder, intelligent people are going for extreme measures now, like joining ISIS.

Write up that indicates that the journalist is trying to make a buck. I urge all readers to do something like what the red cross and red crescent societies do. The Red Cross have lost number of international and national staff particularly while helping people...if you have the guts give it a try and you will come to experience yourself as a humanitarian and then think twice before you point fingers. Red cross does not advertise its work probably thats why they get called out more often for not having done something than for some brilliant work they have done in the past.
Now for the journalist...how demeaning of you to criticise a movement.. you realise Red Cross is not an institution but soul of every human being. I see that you dont have one as a result you should consider doing something worthwile than journalism.
And Yes i am a Red cross volunteer and so is my family and we have lost many friends who help people like you that have no regard.

I disagree with the article and think the Red Cross is doing as good as it can under these horrible circumstances in Gaza. I have also seen pictures of Red Cross staff risking their lives these days in Gaza and attempting to evacuate civilians. Perhaps you wrote the article think you can do more in the face of an Israeli invasion?

Did the writer of this article ever think they did not participate in this evacutaion because they did not have the safety guarantees to enter the zone? What is the use of carrying the support if you end up getting killed as well? It just means they can't help others in future situations.

Showing its true face maybe? That they are actually about killing, not saving?

we have seen the International Red Cross on many international media networks along with the Palestinian Red Crescent evacuating dead bodies and saving a lady who was trapped under the rubble, while managing to pull a humanitarian truce for couple of hours (where many others have failed) allowing significant number of people to flee the area for relative safety. In my opinion, the action taken, even small, exceeds by far the action taken by those who are enjoying their posture on their comfy sofas and just criticizing the conduct of others. ومن أحياها فكانما أحيا الناس جميعا

The red cross is a disgusted organization, who exposed its true face!!

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