BREAKING NEWS : Hank Aaron, baseball legend and former home run king, dies at 86 Full Story

He's treated thousands. The surgeon who keeps returning to Gaza

Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sitta peers through his black-rimmed glasses at an X-ray. "Not very good," he quips. "See how the pie...

Posted: May 18, 2018 10:24 AM
Updated: May 18, 2018 10:24 AM

Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sitta peers through his black-rimmed glasses at an X-ray. "Not very good," he quips. "See how the pieces are?" he says to hospital staff, pointing at the fuzzy image.

He leans over to cut his patient's bandages, letting out a sigh. Infection is inevitable, he says, in these "high-energy devitalizing injuries," his way of describing the damage done by Israeli sniper bullets to the human body.

Eighteen-year-old Maddah is just one of many patients Abu-Sitta has treated since Palestinians began a series of protests known as the "Great March of Return." Confrontations between Israeli troops and the protesters worsened Monday as tensions soared over the United States' relocation of its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Maddah, propping himself up in bed, looks warily at the doctor, not understanding his explanation in English to the staff at Gaza's Al-Awda hospital. Maddah was shot on March 30, when the Great March of Return began.

Bandages wrap around Maddah's lower leg, which bristles with external fixation pins. As Abu-Sitta lifts his leg, Maddah winces in pain.

On Thursday alone, Abu-Sitta saw a steady stream of patients, and he has treated perhaps thousands since first coming to Gaza as a medical student during the First Intifada in the late 1980s. He returned to treat the injured in the Second Intifada, the 2008-2009 war, the 2012 war, the 2014 war -- and now this. He rattles off the list of uprisings and wars without a moment's hesitation.

Abu-Sitta serves as director of the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Department at the prestigious American University of Beirut Hospital, where he says he spends 40% of his time treating the war wounded from Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya, plus old wounds from Lebanon's civil war and a succession of wars after that.

"Unfortunately," he says, "we have to accept that war injuries are now an endemic disease in the region."

'These were the downtrodden'

The night before we met Abu-Sitta, a senior member of Hamas' political bureau, Salah al-Bardaweel, told Gaza TV station Baladna that 50 of at least 60 people killed in clashes on Monday were Hamas "martyrs." Israeli officials jumped on the statement as proof Hamas had organized the entire event as a cynical publicity stunt.

CNN asked Abu-Sitta about the Hamas leader's claim. He shrugged, suggesting desperation and hopelessness were the fuel for the protests, regardless of who may have played a role in organizing them.

"I've been around the block enough times to tell someone who is from the downtrodden, and these were the downtrodden," he replied. "These were impoverished. These were the people who started out poor before the siege and ended up being just untenably poor."

The "siege" refers to the blockade Israel imposed on Gaza in 2006 after Hamas came to power after elections.

Ramadan begins, but protests go on

Gaza in the wake of Monday's bloodshed is in a strange state of limbo. In the days afterward, residents were busy scrambling to prepare for the holy month of Ramadan, which began Thursday.

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, more than 100 residents have been killed by Israeli fire since March, and thousands have been wounded and likely crippled for life, but meals still need to be prepared, families clothed, children sent off to school.

In Gaza City's main market there is little talk of politics, or of recent events. It bustles with shoppers searching for affordable food for the daily breaking of the fast, barely a word is spoken of Gaza's latest travails. If Israeli officials thought the bloodshed was a great public relations triumph for the Palestinians, it certainly didn't feel like it here.

Salma, a bespectacled older woman clad in black, says she feels Gaza today is more isolated than ever, scorned by the United States, abandoned by traditional Arab supporters.

"It's as if they've never heard of a place called Gaza," she says. "They condemn what's going on, but nothing comes of it."

Thursday afternoon in Gaza City, the loudspeaker at a mosque near the Square of the Unknown Soldier called for people to go Friday to yet another protest along the fence that divides Gaza from Israel. A few minutes later a car drove down the street, speakers tied to the roof blaring the same message.

Abu-Sitta says he and his colleagues are bracing for another busy day.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 601937

Reported Deaths: 9593
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion831111322
Lake44972678
Allen32498545
Hamilton29039315
St. Joseph27133380
Elkhart24291343
Vanderburgh19160246
Tippecanoe17799130
Johnson14871292
Porter14631167
Hendricks14188247
Madison10851219
Vigo10636178
Clark10520137
Monroe9299110
Delaware9055134
LaPorte8972160
Howard8134142
Kosciusko800382
Warrick665197
Hancock6575103
Bartholomew637999
Floyd6322109
Wayne6076161
Grant5937113
Dubois552578
Boone544967
Morgan530594
Henry503464
Marshall499884
Cass478663
Dearborn470745
Noble468357
Jackson420747
Shelby410781
Lawrence387478
Clinton370642
Gibson365559
DeKalb344264
Montgomery340754
Harrison340544
Knox333139
Miami317344
Steuben311545
Whitley301725
Wabash299747
Adams299035
Ripley296545
Putnam292049
Huntington288659
Jasper287634
White270340
Daviess266073
Jefferson257938
Fayette245148
Decatur244883
Greene238162
Posey236927
Wells233350
LaGrange226361
Scott221838
Clay220932
Randolph212148
Jennings195836
Sullivan190833
Spencer188019
Fountain182127
Washington182022
Starke174443
Jay166322
Owen162837
Fulton162330
Orange156333
Carroll155415
Rush153318
Perry151227
Vermillion147334
Franklin146933
Tipton130932
Parke13018
Pike115626
Blackford110522
Pulaski96137
Newton90521
Brown86833
Benton85910
Crawford7839
Martin72313
Warren6757
Switzerland6455
Union6227
Ohio4787
Unassigned0375

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 849704

Reported Deaths: 10518
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin100046706
Cuyahoga845231068
Hamilton63092447
Montgomery42660405
Summit34405754
Lucas31041611
Butler30546229
Stark25443429
Warren19436140
Lorain18767223
Mahoning17163337
Lake15882153
Clermont15697110
Delaware1422678
Licking13067137
Trumbull12680313
Fairfield1262180
Greene11915136
Medina11439167
Clark10802265
Wood10230158
Allen9774126
Portage9163107
Miami907373
Richland9035117
Marion7420113
Tuscarawas7280179
Columbiana7263124
Pickaway719550
Wayne6954169
Muskingum690741
Erie6090127
Hancock547590
Ross543487
Scioto533664
Geauga501155
Darke465591
Ashtabula449373
Lawrence447053
Union444928
Sandusky433062
Mercer432088
Huron423541
Seneca423465
Auglaize419662
Shelby419421
Jefferson415469
Belmont411240
Washington383340
Athens37379
Putnam372674
Madison349929
Knox347922
Ashland342538
Fulton335243
Defiance327782
Crawford319472
Preble318437
Brown307121
Logan304132
Ottawa289243
Clinton286643
Williams275866
Highland271818
Jackson261345
Guernsey249825
Champaign249328
Fayette234429
Morrow23014
Perry228318
Holmes222864
Henry216849
Hardin210133
Coshocton203521
Van Wert200545
Gallia194726
Wyandot193851
Pike172417
Adams172015
Hocking169824
Carroll153216
Paulding143221
Noble119940
Meigs106823
Monroe100331
Harrison87821
Morgan82229
Vinton68913
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
26° wxIcon
Hi: 27° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 16°
Angola
Cloudy
23° wxIcon
Hi: 24° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 10°
Huntington
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 28° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 14°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
26° wxIcon
Hi: 28° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 16°
Lima
Cloudy
28° wxIcon
Hi: 29° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 17°
Colder Friday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events