Documenting death: The man who counts the bodies

2014-07-28 05:00

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

  • Palestine
    The traumas and tragedies of historic Palestine are impacting every twist and turn in the countdown... Now R209.00
    buy now

Gaza City - Inside Ashraf al-Qudra's cramped office in Shifa hospital, the phone never stops ringing, with news flooding in of the latest victims of Israel's devastating 20-day military operation.

With over 1 060 people killed and more than 6 000 wounded, counting the dead is a full-time occupation for the 41-year-old spokesperson for Gaza's emergency services.

Since the operation began on 8 July, Qudra has been sleeping just two hours a night on a mattress in his office, his staff updating him round the clock on the latest victims of the Israeli offensive, his phone constantly ringing with journalists seeking details of the latest toll.

He lies down for a rest, but his much-needed siesta is swiftly interrupted as an aide rushes in.

"Doctor Qudra, there are many many dead and injured in a shelling on Shuhada hospital!" exclaims a breathless assistant.

The 41-year-old immediately begins scribbling down notes as phones ring and a wireless radio crackles with news of more death and injury across war-torn Gaza.

He calls the hospitals, coordinating efforts to keep track of the wounded.

"There's no safe place from the Israeli shelling," says Qudra, a tall man with a neatly-trimmed beard who has been doing the job for four years.

"They targeted Al-Wafa hospital, Shahada hospital and the European hospital, which I feared would happen," he said.

"I don't doubt they'll hit this hospital at some point," he says, watching out the window as an ambulance unloads more of the wounded.

"The enemy has gone beyond insane, there's disaster after disaster."

Unpaid for months

Figures released by the UN's humanitarian agency OCHA indicate nearly three quarters of the victims were civilians and around a quarter of them children.

And it says 18 hospitals, clinics and medical centres have been hit and damaged by Israeli shelling.

Israel has lost 43 soldiers, and three civilians have been killed by cross-border projectiles.

Shifa is the largest of Gaza's seven hospitals, all of which have been working around the clock since the Israel operation began on 8 July with the aim of eradicating cross-border rocket fire, which later expanded into a ground operation.

A call comes in on the landline - five more dead and at least 70 wounded, among them doctors and paramedics in a strike on Shuhada hospital in Khan Yunis.

The phone rings again. But this time it's his wife.

Qudra cracks a rare smile and asks after his four children, reassuring them that he's still safe and well.

He has seen his family only once in the past three weeks.

"I miss them," he admits.

And like many ordinary Gazans, he struggles to support them.

Despite his crucial role, Qudra, who recently qualified as a doctor, has not been paid for several months.

Until two months ago, he was spokesperson for the Hamas-run health ministry, but the Islamist movement - which administered Gaza until handing over responsibility to a Ramallah-based government in June - ran out of funds to pay its government workers.

But he does not consider himself allied to Hamas, insisting his work is a humanitarian duty.

"I believe strongly in my humanitarian mission," he says of a job which involves answering around 700 phonecalls per day.

Emotional impact


Every evening, he holds a news conferences at the hospital at which he reads out the figures and names of the victims.

But long before, every detail is meticulously recorded in near-constant postings in Arabic on both Twitter and Facebook.

For journalists covering the conflict, Qudra is the sole source of information. With numbers rising so quickly, sometimes by 100 deaths per day, it would be an impossible task to independently verify every casualty.

Qudra insists his numbers add up.

"The statistics we use and publish are accurate and objective," he says, proud but weary.

His first experience of a major conflict between Israel and Hamas was in November 2012 when 177 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed in an eight-day confrontation.

This time, he admits, the conflict has definitely affected him emotionally.

"I see corpses and body parts all the time," he says.

"But what really gets to me is the sight of women and children who've been killed in shellings."

Read more on:    palestine  |  israel  |  gaza
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
15 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Dewani Trial
 

Red Bull Lionheart trail run - not for the fainthearted!

Entries are open, so what are you waiting for?

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

Adventure holidays for your bucket list
Top 10 water sports to try before you die
6 impressive camping tips
LOL! The 8 stages of marathon running

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Deal of the week!

Save R1200 on the Samsung 48” smart full HD LED television now only R8799. Buy now!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing prices – As seen on TV

Get mind blowing prices on 1000’s of products! Shop now.

Save 20% on Nivea beauty products!

Buy any two Nivea beauty products and save 20%. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is an easy social flow and the need to blend in, yet you may not feel entirely comfortable. Something beneath the surface...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.