'My daughters, they killed them': Doctor shows Israelis horror of war

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The Independent Online

Like the shellings of UN-run schools and a major hospital in Gaza City, the Israeli public might have regarded the deaths of his three daughters as just more collateral damage in an ugly but justified war, if they noticed it at all. But Dr Izz el-Deen Aboul Aish is a gynaecologist at Israel's Shiba Hospital near Tel Aviv, and is well known among Israeli medical colleagues and journalists.

During the 22 days of Israel's military onslaught on Gaza, the Palestinian doctor and peace advocate who speaks Hebrew fluently had helped the Israeli media cover the war by giving phone interviews from inside Gaza.

But on Friday night, Dr Aboul Aish's scheduled live interview with Israeli Channel 10 television was conducted minutes after three of his daughters were killed by an Israeli shell. His raw anguish forced Israelis to take their first real glimpse of the suffering and death caused to Palestinian civilians.

Shlomi Eldar, the Channel 10 correspondent, his own voice choking with emotion, repeatedly noted Dr Aboul Aish's connection to Shiba Hospital as he held out his mobile phone, allowing viewers to hear the physician cry and sob: "My daughters, they killed them, Oh lord, God, God, God."

"I want to save them but they are dead," Dr Aboul Aish said. In a video of the interview, available on YouTube, the physician can be heard imploring for help while a shaken Mr Eldar pleads on air for anyone in the army who might be viewing to let ambulances reach the Aboul Aish home in the Jebalya refugee camp. "Maybe something can still be saved," he said.

Because of the publicity, another of his daughters and a brother were evacuated quickly to Israel for treatment. Other Palestinian civilians have gone without medical care for days.

But it was not just the death of his three daughters, Bisan, Mayar and Aya, 20, 15 and 12 respectively, that left Dr Aboul Aish in anguish yesterday. It was the feeling among some Israelis that he, like many other Gazans who have suffered in the violence, is being blamed for his own tragedy. At Shiba Hospital near Tel Aviv, where a surviving daughter, Sheda, 17, is being treated for shrapnel in the eye, the doctor repeated yesterday that there were no Hamas gunmen firing from his house, as the army suggested yesterday, when two shells hit a bedroom. The army is also saying the UN compound and the hospital were used by gunmen or they were nearby.

"I had left the room seconds earlier. How would gunmen have reached the roof? From where would they have entered?" he asked. The physician, who did his residency at Soroka Hospital in the Israeli city of Beersheba, was adamant he had not allowed his house to be a Hamas firing position. "I have never done anything wrong in my life. If you don't believe Palestinians, ask Israelis who doctor Aboul Aish is. They should just admit they made a mistake. There is no shame in making a mistake, but don't deceive the nation," he said in Hebrew.

An Israeli colleague, Carmi Z Margolis, director of the medical school for international medicine at Ben Gurion University, said: "This is a man known as a man of peace for many years. It's a terrible tragedy. I don't know if there was a sniper but I know the man. It needs to be investigated why they shelled the home of a man of peace in Gaza."

The preponderance of civilian casualties among the more than 1,200 Palestinian dead is only now being gently questioned in the Israeli mainstream media, which has generally accepted at face value the army's explanation that Hamas uses civilians as human shields.

The general lack of interest in Palestinian civilian casualties stems from Hamas rocket attacks on southern Israel, says Yossi Sarid, former head of the liberal Meretz party. He believes public opinion is unlikely to change despite Dr Aboul Aish's tragedy.

"The window has been opened narrowly to the other side. But support for the war is overwhelming. People were tired of watching the towns in the south be shelled, so there has been almost no critical view of events."

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