Death and destruction wrought by Israeli bullets in Gaza

HE DIED in front of us last night, shot in the head by Israeli troops, breathing desperately through a tube pushed into his lungs until the heart-beat on the screen above his bed registered a thin green line. 'Allahu Akhbar,' (God is Great), his relatives shrieked as they bound up his corpse in a cotton shroud and pushed their way past the beds where more than two dozen victims lay in the emergency room.

We never found out the Palestinian's name. In the chaos of the Shifa hospital in Gaza City, it was impossible to ask the doctors, overwhelmed in bloodstained gowns, amid the din of screams. By the hour of curfew, 27 Palestinians with gunshot wounds had been brought to the hospital, another 13 to the Rafah hospital, and reportedly a further 25 to Al-Ahli clinic; 65 wounded by the Israelis in scarcely three hours. Trails of blood marked the entrance of the Shifa hospital.

First reports said most of the Palestinians shot by Israeli troops had been demonstrating in the Tofah district of Gaza City in protest at the destruction of 17 Palestinian homes by Israeli troops three days ago, and the killing there of a Hamas militiaman. But the Israelis had placed curfews on two areas, banning the entrance even of UN ambulances.

For almost two hours, shooting could be heard across Gaza City, followed by the wail of ambulance sirens. When we entered the Shifa hospital shortly after 6pm, distraught relatives were shouting and weeping at the entrance. Young men and a small boy lay on the beds, covered in blood, while another man, his chest streaked with blood, lay gasping on a table. His chin showed the mark of a bullet hole. 'The bullet entered his brain - he is critically ill,' a nurse shouted.

He died in front of us, his eyes tight shut, his head lolling to the right, the doctors stunned by their failure to keep the man alive. In less than a minute, male relatives - all bearded and shouting religious chants - swept his shrouded body into the back seat of an old Peugeot. No sooner had he been borne away than a pregnant woman, who witnessed the shootings, was brought semi-conscious into the hospital.

Rage consumed those standing at the doors. 'Kill the Jews,' they screamed. Another chapter in Gaza City's insurrection had begun.

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