Friday, April 17, 2009

Penetrating the Laws of War - Amira Hass

Haaretz, April 16, 2009 - The tall young man walked into the room slowly and sat down slowly. Two nails that have penetrated his body force him to walk rigidly and carefully; one is in the upper-right part of his chest, the other in his right thigh. The man is Nahaz Abdel Daym, 25, who was wounded by two flechette shells fired by the Israel Defense Forces on January 5 during Operation Cast Lead.

When a flechette projectile explodes, it scatters between 5,000 and 8,000 nails or small darts, each about four centimeters long. They stick into anything they hit: people, trees, cement, metal. Two of Abdel Daym's brothers and three cousins were killed by darts from those two shells. About another 20 people were wounded, including one of his brothers.

The doctors decided not to operate to remove the nails, fearing they would cause irreversible damage. "I feel all the time as though needles are stuck in my body," he says. He has difficulty breathing, wakes up many times during the night and feels constant pain, which worsens on cold days. The wound suffered by his brother Mazen is not as serious: A dart hit his arm near the elbow. The doctors say that after rehabilitation, he will regain full function....

[Abd al Dayam]... is one of about 5,600 people wounded during the IDF's most recent attack on the Gaza Strip. According to the health authorities there, about 2,000 are children and 800 are women. Of the wounded, 520 have been sent for treatment abroad - most of them to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, others to Turkey and Belgium. Six died while being treated abroad. Only a few patients remain in Gaza's hospitals. In thousands of homes families are coping with the effects of their injuries: disability, pain, extra expenses and a lack of confidence in the medical care they receive. For them, the offensive did not end on January 18....

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