BAGHDAD (Reuters) -
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.
"It was midnight when
the missile fell on us. My father, my mother and my brother died. My
mother was five months pregnant," the traumatized boy told Reuters
at Baghdad's Kindi hospital.
"Our neighbors pulled
me out and brought me here. I was unconscious," he said on Sunday.
In addition to the tragedy
of losing his parents, he faces the horror of living handicapped. Thinking
about his uncertain future he timidly asked whether he could get artificial
"Can you help get my
arms back? Do you think the doctors can get me another pair of hands?" Abbas
asked. "If I don't get a pair of hands I will commit suicide," he
said with tears spilling down his cheeks.
His aunt, three cousins and
three other relatives staying with them were also killed in this week's
missile strikes on their house in Diala Bridge district east of Baghdad.
"We didn't want war.
I was scared of this war," said Abbas. "Our house was just
a poor shack, why did they want to bomb us?" said the young boy,
unaware that the area in which he lived was surrounded by military
With a childhood lost and
a future clouded by disaster and disability, Abbas poured his heart
out as he lay in bed with an improvised wooden cage over his chest
to stop his burned flesh touching the bed covers.
"I wanted to become an
army officer when I grow up, but not anymore. Now I want to become
a doctor, but how can I? I don't have hands," he said.
His aunt, Jamila Abbas, 53,
looked after him, feeding him, washing him, comforting him with prayers
and repeatedly telling him his parents had gone to heaven.
Abbas' suffering offered one
snapshot of the daily horrors afflicting Iraqi civilians in the devastating
U.S.-led war to remove President Saddam Hussein.
At the Kindi hospital, staff
were overwhelmed by the sharp rise in casualties since U.S. ground
troops moved north to Baghdad on Thursday and intensified their aerial
Ambulance after ambulance
raced in with casualties from around the capital. Victim after victim
was rushed in, many carried in bed sheets after the stretchers ran
out. Doctors struggled to find them beds.
Staff had no time even to
clean the blood from trolleys.
Patients' screams and parents'
cries echoed across the ward.
With many staff unable to
reach the hospital due to the bombing, doctors worked round the clock
performing surgery, taking blood, giving injections and ferrying the
Doctor Osama Saleh al-Duleimi,
an orthopedic surgeon and assistant director at Kindi, said they were
overloaded and suffering shortages of anesthesia, pain killers and
The International Committee
of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been touring hospitals to provide first
aid and surgery kits.
"So far hospitals had
equipment and medicine to cope but were overwhelmed by the sheer number
of casualties coming in at the same time. During fierce bombardment,
hospitals received up to 100 casualties per hour," ICRC spokesman
Roland Huguenin-Benjamin told Reuters on Sunday.
He said hospitals were well-organized
and were so far coping, but voiced concern in case the fighting dragged
Doctors who treated Iraqi
victims of two previous wars say they are taken aback by the injuries
they have seen. Most suffered massive trauma and fatal wounds, including
head, abdominal and limb injuries from lethal weapons, they said.
"I've been a doctor for
25 years and this is the worst I've seen in terms of the number of
casualties and fatal wounds," said Duleimi, 48, who witnessed
the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War and the 1991 Gulf War over Kuwait.
"This is a disaster because
they're attacking civilians. We are receiving a lot of civilian casualties,"
Washington says it has tried
to minimize civilian casualties in its war to oust Saddam but doctors
insist many of the victims are civilians caught in aerial and artillery
There is no independent figure
for casualties but hospital sources put them at hundreds of dead and
thousands of wounded.
"This war is more destructive
than all the previous wars. In the previous battles, the weapons seemed
merely disabling; now they're much more lethal," Doctor Sadek
"Before the war I did
not regard America as my enemy. Now I do. There are the military and
there are the civilians. War should be against the military. America
is killing civilians."