(crossposted from Canada's World)
Eva Bartlett is a human rights activist with the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement. She is also a Canadian, the daughter of two classical musicians from Fergus, Ontario.
No shrinking violet, Bartlett has spent the past few years trying to help the people of Gaza and the West Bank by volunteering, bringing aid, protesting, and simply bearing witness. She even spent a couple of days in an Israeli jail for helping the residents of a small West Bank town dismantle a barricade that was cutting them off from supplies and medical services.
Today, Bartlett is travelling with ambulance crews in Gaza and reporting what she sees on her blog, titled simply "In Gaza". Nobody could be closer to the human tragedy that is unfolding there than those who courageously collect the wounded and the dead, and she frequently ends up describing the ground-level reality of events that western journalists can only watch from their distant hilltop on the border.
As we watch those odd-looking white plumes exploding over Gaza, Bartlett is reporting mysterious cases of caustic smoke inhalation being seen by Red Crescent ambulance drivers in Jabaliya. Days before we heard the story of emaciated children being found next to their dead parents after four days in a bombed-out house, Bartlett was hearing stories about the Israeli Army preventing ambulances from reaching survivors in a house where people had been told to stay (or, possibly, were locked in) and were subsequently bombed.
And all the while, medics she knows and has befriended are being shot at and killed.
I've become so caught up in all this that every time she goes for more than a day between posts I imagine the worst.
There is no shortage of personal accounts and horrific images coming out of Gaza. Sadly, all of these accounts are open to accusations of bias and even outright fabrication because professional journalists (who are assumed to be 'unbiased') have been prevented from entering the region. A few were inside the fence already and are doing what they can, but generally we are left to sort truth from propaganda from the confusing and conflicting stories coming from Israel and from those who are experiencing all this first hand.
Still, sometimes we have to accept the bias of the observer and just look at what they are observing. However they (or we) are interpreting it, it's vital that we have this raw data - both as evidence of what has happened, and as human reality check against the punditry and analysis and political spin.
There are no politics in the back of an ambulance.
UPDATE: Eva shows us some devastating and unusual looking burns inflicted on one family, and MSNBC has a photo of what is very likely white phosphorous as it rains down on yet another U.N. school.
Oh, and one of the few functioning hospitals in Gaza was shelled and burned. It's been a busy 24 hours.