ABU DHABI // Emirates Red Crescent staff came under attack from Israel in response to Hamas fire from a Gaza hospital where they were working, the charity’s secretary general said at the Crown Prince’s Majlis on Monday night.
Mohammed Al Falahi said his organisation felt sacrificed after Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, fired on Israelis from the field hospital bringing retaliation from the Israelis.
Mr Al Falahi said the charity had coordinated with the Red Cross to distribute aid in Gaza during the 2014 conflict “and we asked them to liaise with the Israeli forces so they don’t strike us”.
“While we were in the field hospital that the UAE built, we were surprised by – and this is the first that we have announced this – someone from Hamas instigating Israeli forces by launching locally made rockets from the field hospital”, he said.
Inevitably, the Israelis hit back. “This shows their [Hamas’s] wicked intentions and how they sacrificed us,” Mr Al Falahi said. “They always claim that the enemy targets humanitarian envoys but the betrayal came from them.”
He said as the team were leaving Gaza “after having raised the white flag, Hamas accused us of being spies, undercover foreign intelligence who were escaping”.
“And apparently they had informed extremist militias in Sinai and Sheikh Zuweid [in Egypt] that there was a group making their way there, so prepare for jihad against them.
“So Muslims fighting Muslims, who were giving humanitarian aid to Muslims. As we stopped at a grocery to buy something to eat, they started shooting at us.”
He said the same time they found that the militias had planted landmines in their path a few kilometres farther down the path.
“What hurts is that the betrayal came from our own people,” Mr Al Falahi told the majlis.
But despite this adversity, the charity continued to be a leading player in distributing humanitarian aid.
Mr Al Falahi gave the example of Kandahar, Afghanistan, where it sent 37 humanitarian delegations after attacks in the province.
“A month ago an ERC envoy was bombed in Somalia,” he said, “and when we communicated with them to check how they were doing and to ask if they wish to return or continue, to our surprise right after the accident they distributed the aid and completed the mission.”
He said that humanitarian missions could be driven by personal gains and interests, but that the Red Crescent always focused on ensuring aid was delivered where it should be.
“I assure you that the UAE confirms where everything is going and who will benefit from it,” he said.
The ERC was once distributing aid to a country, which he did not name, but they received a request from an official to deliver it all to one village.
“Then we discovered that this region is controlled by the party that supported the official to gain his post, and the area he pointed at was his hometown,” Mr Al Falahi said.
He said it was the organisation’s goal to create human bonds with the people it helped. He showed a photograph of girls in the Philippines at a school the UAE helped to rebuild after it was destroyed by a hurricane. The girls were smiling and holding small UAE flags.
“If you see the girl holding the flag, when she grows up and becomes a professional, or a prime minister or a president, don’t you think her love for the UAE will grow?” Mr Al Falahi asked.
“They appreciate who was good to them. At a time when the rest of the world gave up on them, this faraway Muslim Arab country came to help.
“So the love of the people is the real fortune we seek.”