Apr 8 2003

By Samia Nakhoul


ALI Ismaeel Abbas, 12, was fast asleep when war shattered his life.

A missile obliterated his home and most of his family, leaving him orphaned, badly burned - and blowing off both his arms.

With tears running down his face he asked: "Can you help get my arms back? Do you think the doctors can get me another pair of hands? If I don't get a pair of hands I will commit suicide.

"I wanted to be an army officer when I grow up but not any more. Now I want to be a doctor - but how can I? I don't have hands."

Lying in a Baghdad hospital, an improvised metal cage over his chest to stop his burned flesh touching the bedclothes, he said: "It was midnight when the missile fell on us. My father, my mother and my brother died. My mother was five months pregnant.

"Our neighbours pulled me out and brought me here unconscious.

"Our house was just a poor shack. Why did they want to bomb us?"

He did not know the area where he lived was surrounded by military installations.

Hospital staff were overwhelmed by the sharp rise in casualties since US troops moved on Baghdad and intensified the aerial assault.


TRAGEDY: Ali was left orphaned and terribly injured in bombing raid

Ambulances rushed in with victims, many carried in bedsheets after running out of stretchers.

Doctors struggled to find them beds. Staff had no time to clean the blood from trolleys. Patients' screams and parents' cries echoed across the wards.

With many staff unable to get there due to the bombing, doctors worked round the clock performing surgery, taking blood, giving injections and ferrying wounded.

Dr Osama Saleh al-Duleimi, an orthopaedic surgeon and assistant director at Kindi, said they were overloaded and suffering shortages of anaesthetics and painkillers.

The Red Cross has been touring hospitals with first aid and surgery kits. Spokesman Roland Huguenin-Benjamin said: "They were overwhelmed by sheer numbers - during fierce bombardment they received up to 100 casualties an hour."

Doctors who treated victims of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war and the 1991 Gulf War were taken aback by the injuries. Dr Duleimi, 48, said: "This is the worst I've seen in the number of casualties and fatal wounds.

"This is a disaster because they're attacking civilians."

Dr Sadek al-Mukhtar said: "In the previous battles the weapons seemed merely disabling. Now they're much more lethal.

"Before the war I did not regard America as my enemy. Now I do. War should be against the military. America is killing civilians."


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