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The Silent Heros of Gaza

First Line Defence Firemen Speak out



Photo by Vanvan Chen

Finally I have a chance to interview the fireman. What strikes me the most is the terrible conditions and how old the fireman look. The manager who is wearing glasses looks embarrassed when he tells me he is only 29.


Photo by Vanvan Chen

He explains that the building was two stories and was destroyed in the last attack from Israel in 2010. Most of the equipment dates back to 1986, it would all be considered obsolete in the west. Their office comprises of a small brick built building. Most of the time they sleep outside in the makeshift tent. 

I ask them whether they have had any support for post traumatic stress. He shakes his head and says no. He explains some of the problems they have had since the occupation from lack of fuel to much needed equipment. He explains that they are all very poorly paid but even so they will continue their work as a humanitarian and Muslim. I ask him how the attacks have affected him directly. He says he has been hit by rocket attacks on three separate occasions.

When there was a fuel shortage they went around on motorbikes and used water from the local houses. The area they cover should be 3 miles but they very often go out up to 25km. The premises they now occupy had become a sub station instead of the main fire station.


Photo by Vanvan Chen


Another member starts speaking about his own experiences. He is twenty four years old. All of the crew members are open and willing to share their experiences. He explains that prior to being a fireman he would eat meat however he hadn't eaten meat up until recently because the taste and smell reminds him of barbecued bodies.

The manager explains that many of the fire crew have injuries that have not been treated properly. Not a single one of them has had any psychological support for the trauma and they manage in the best way they can. 

I ask them if they have received any international support in terms of financial help and equipment. They explain that Malaysia sent a delegation and some much needed equipment but it remains in Israel being “checked”. This is a common story amongst many of the people here. Items get sent over and then remain in transit, for “checking” often for years and never see the light of day in Gaza.

I ask the manager how he would feel if the international community supported them and send over some equipment. He reiterates the story about the Malaysians and says he would love help but appears to be a little dissolutioned.



Photo by Vanvan Chen 

As we are shown round the equipment the photographer Vanvan invites them to have their photographs taken. The manager reluctantly agrees to have his picture taken in a group. He explains to the interpreter that he’s embarrassed.

I am left feeling that their situation is hopeless but the manager reminds me that no matter what happens they will continue their work whether they have equipment or not until they day they die.

Just before we are about to leave one of the fire crew bring out a plate of fresh figs. He offers us them and invites us to go and have a meal with the crew later when they break their fast.



Hummingbirds of Gaza

"Like the hummingbird the people of Gaza are given no choice but to adapt swiftly to ever changing situations which includes having their houses destroyed, human rights violations and dealing with trauma every single day. The Palestinian people and those in Gaza retain the true spirit of the Hummingbird by remaining joyful, compassionate and sensitive in the face of extreme adversity."

- Sarah -


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