Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, a gynecologist living in Jabalya refugee camp and working at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer lost three daughters and a niece Friday as the result of an Israel Defense Forces strike. Another daughter and another niece, seriously injured in the strike, are currently being treated at Tel Hashomer.
Two of Abu al-Aish's brothers were also injured in the strike; one is being treated at Tel Hashomer and the other at Gaza's Shifa Hospital.
Abu al-Aish has been a regular fixture on Israeli television throughout Operation Cast Lead, bringing accounts of the medical crisis facing Gazans to living rooms across Israel.
Before joining Tel Hashomer's Gertner Institute (a research center for epidemiology and health policy), the physician worked at Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva. Ofra Balaban, chair of the CHEN patient fertility association and a friend of Abu al-Aish, said he had also been sent to Afghanistan in the past on behalf of an international non-profit medical organization.
Yesterday he struggled to restrain his emotions as he told reporters at Tel Hashomer about the trauma he and his family underwent after hearing of the strike Friday, exactly four months after his wife died of an illness.
Abu al-Aish spoke of his slain daughters - Bisan, 20, an economics and business management student at Islamic University in Gaza, Mayar, 15, and Aya, 14, as well as his niece, Nur, 17.
"I raised my children to work, and to be soldiers of peace. I believed medicine could be a bridge for peace between Israelis and Palestinians," he said. "During all of my work at Soroka people would ask me, 'Where are you from - Haifa, Nazareth? I wanted them to know I'm from Jabalya refugee camp, a Palestinian. That we can live together."
"I received work in Canada and I wanted to take my kids. Why did they destroy my hopes? My children? I want a reason, give me a reason," he said.
Abu al-Aish said he described his house on the main artery of Salah a-Din Street, three kilometers from Erez crossing.
"The army knows my house. A few days earlier, a tank arrived opposite my home. I immediately contacted journalists like Shlomi Eldar [of Channel 10 News], [radio personalities] Gabi Gazit and Yael Dan, and many Arab journalists. They all did their best, as did the liaison office at Erez crossing," he said.
The press conference turned tense when the mother of three IDF paratroopers began yelling at Abu al-Aish, demanding that he explain why there were weapons in the house. She later explained that while her heart went out to the physician, she did not believe the army would have shelled the building for no reason.
Israeli television reports carried initial reports indicating a sniper had fired from either the family's building - which friends quoted by the station said they doubted - or nearby, and troops responded with a tank shell.
"If there were snipers, why didn't they shoot at them? Why did they aim for the room?" Abu al-Aish asked, his voice trembling.
Dr. Shaul Sofer, head of the emergency room at Soroka who instructed Abu al-Aish, said yesterday, "We all know and love him well at Soroka, and we really hope the situation gets better."
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