Norwegian doctor's SMS alerts from Gaza spread in Europe

Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert arrived one week ago in the Gaza Strip to assist Palestinian healthcare providers as the Israeli offensive drags on. With information limited in the Strip due to an Israeli ban on reporters in the territory, Gilbert has been sending SMS messages that are being forwarded to cell-phones throughout Europe. His messages have become an invaluable accounting of the dire medical situation in the Strip.
mads gilbert
Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert on a local TV program. Gilbert told reporters in Gaza has no plans on leaving even if he is risking his own life. R.R.

STOCKHOLM, January 6, 2008 (MENASSAT) – As the eleventh day of the Israeli military offensive comes to an end, accurate medical reports of the situation inside the Gaza Strip have become invaluable after Israel banned reporters from entering the Gaza Strip on December 27. Enter 61-year old Norwegian doctor, Mads Gilbert, whose SMS phone messages from a Gaza hospital are increasingly being cited in news reports throughout Europe.

A triage specialist, Gilbert has had extensive experience working in conflict zones such as Beirut during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and more recently Afghanistan. He says the situation in Gaza is the worst he’s ever seen.

'Closest you come to a massacre'

Gilbert and another Norwegian doctor, Erik Fosse, are part of a volunteer medical aid organization NORWAC – Norwegian Aid Committee. They arrived in Gaza on December 30, 3 days after Israel began its assault on the Strip to help Palestinian doctors at the overcrowded Al-Shifa hospital.

According to Gilbert, the Israeli offensive in such a densely populated place has created “massacres” because civilians stand “no chance of getting out of the line of fire.”

“The intensive care unit here is full of children with serious injuries. Twenty-five percent of the victims are women and children and forty-five percent of the injured are women and children. This is the closest you come to a massacre,” Gilbert told Swedish Radio.

Both Fosse and Gilbert are reportedly working around the clock to help the victims, which are increasing in numbers since Saturday’s ground invasion began. He says the two of them live in a room at the hospital and that Israel is pounding the area and “shooting at everyone and everything.”

“It's very cold and the Israelis are bombing the area all the time. Yesterday, three ambulance workers were killed when they were out picking up injured people,” Gilbert said.

SMS-ing the horrors

Israel has banned reporters from entering Gaza despite a December Israeli high court ruling that states eight journalists at a time be allowed to go in to the Strip – even as the Israeli military escalates its offensive.

Free press advocates claim that without the watchful eyes of outside reporters, the facts on-the-ground in Gaza are being sacrificed to remote wire reports and biased accounts.

But on Monday, Scandinavian countries began receiving SMS alerts on their mobile phones giving eyewitness accounts from Gilbert telling of the situation from Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza.

His original text messages to a colleague eventually made headlines in northern Europe.

One message read obtained by MENASSAT read: “We are swimming in death, blood, and amputated victims. Many children. Pregnant women. I've never experienced anything so awful.”

In the sms, Gilbert also claimed that Gaza's main vegetable market had been bombed on Monday morning, killing 20 people and injured 80.

Gilbert’s messages eventually became a doctor’s cry for people to take action to pressure European governments to pressure their leaders into brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

'Send it (the SMS) along, call it out. DO SOMETHING! DO MORE!,' Gilbert pleads in one SMS, adding, “We shouldn't call ourselves decent Europeans if we don't act to stop this.”

He told Swedish Radio, “This is the Warzaw ghettos of 2009,” an allusion to the NAZI offensive on the Jewish section of the Polish capital in the Second World War.

Israel said it intends to press on with its ground offensive, and despite the fact that conditions are worsening in the Gaza Strip, Gilbert has no plans on leaving even if he is risking his own life.

'We are here to help people and we're staying here,' he said.