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Medics Risk Their Lives to Save Lives in Gaza

NBC News’ Richard Engel reports as gunfire is aimed at ambulances in Gaza. Israel says the vehicles are used to movie Hamas fighters and weapons.

Just as the U.N. school in northern Gaza was under attack Thursday, two Red Crescent ambulances raced through the streets of Gaza City — we were in the second ambulance, the lead ambulance was 20 yards ahead. As we approached the market in Shejaiya, a dangerous neighborhood just east of the city, we heard a single gunshot followed by an explosion. The ambulances slammed their brakes and reversed. The driver of the lead vehicle thought he was shot at directly — a warning, he thought, to advance no further. He said it happens all the time. The medics couldn’t go deeper into Shejaiya without risking their lives.

Dozens of medical workers have been injured so far in the current conflict, and one medic has been killed. Palestinian medical officials say Israeli forces don't hesitate to fire on them. Israel says ambulances in Gaza have been used to move Hamas fighters and weapons, but there were no militants or weapons in the ambulances we were with today.

The ambulances turned down the narrow streets of the market, looking for a safe place to park — they didn't find one. Bullets cracked past us as we watched terrified locals escaping the neighborhood carrying food and blankets. Men on the streets urged the ambulances to go deeper into Shejaiya, saying there were many wounded who needed urgent care. The medics asked the men to carry injured to the ambulances. The men didn’t want to risk their lives either. The injured were never recovered.