Massacres at the Al-Shifa Hospital

Alaa Al-Mashharawy, Friday 5 Apr 2024

The Israeli Occupation Forces have killed hundreds, wounded thousands, and left a scene of utter devastation at the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, writes Alaa Al-Mashharawy in Gaza

Massacres at the Al-Shifa Hospital


By the time it ended its two-week murder spree at the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza this week, Israel had killed a record 400 people, mostly medical staff, patients, displaced persons, and other civilians, including children.

It arrested around a thousand others, burned and destroyed 1,050 homes in the vicinity of the hospital, destroyed its courtyards, large parts of its buildings, medical equipment, and electricity generators, and left a scene of utter devastation.

This has also been the case at the many other hospitals Israel has targeted in the Gaza Strip during its six-month orgy of bombarding Palestinian civilian institutions from warplanes, tanks, and warships.

At the Al-Shifa Hospital, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) not only killed the living, but they also bombed the dead. They turned the hospital, which was constructed in 1946, into a pile of ash and mangled corpses.

The Hashd Foundation for Human Rights, a rights group, has been documenting the genocide unfolding in Gaza since 7 October, in which Israel’s atrocities at the Al-Shifa Hospital are the latest chapter.

The foundation’s Director Salah Abdel-Aty, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the “photographs and video footages taken by journalists at the hospital clearly show unarmed civilians being shelled, wounded people being crushed under tanks, and patients and medical staff being arrested and killed.”

“Some doctors were shot in cold blood, as happened to Dr Mohamed Al-Nounou, for example, for refusing to abandon his patients.”

The Israel siege of the largest medical complex in Gaza is its third since it unleashed its assault on the Strip last November, destroying or putting out of commission large parts of the hospital.

“The occupation forces are bent on the genocide and forced displacement of the population of Gaza, heedless of international humanitarian law and indifferent to the provisional measures ordered by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in its 26 January ruling that found plausible grounds that Israel was committing genocide in Gaza,” Abdel-Aty said.

During its two-week siege of the Al-Shifa Hospital, the IOF has “committed crimes against humanity, including the summary execution of 400 people, the arrest and torture of a thousand patients, displaced persons and medical staff, and the destruction and burning of 1,050 homes nearby the hospital,” Ismail Al-Thawabta, director of the Government Media Office in Gaza, told the Weekly.

The hundreds of people detained were kept in “inhumane conditions without food, water, medicine, and electricity.” Among them were at least 30 bedridden patients and 60 medical personnel.

The US administration and other Western powers are complicit in the destruction being wrought by the IOF in Gaza, Al-Thawabta said.

“All these crimes took place as the US administration and the international community stood by and watched. They are fully complicit in the mass murder at the hospital and the ongoing genocide in Gaza.”   

Al-Thawabta appealed to international organisations and Arab and Islamic countries to break their silence and take concrete steps to stop the indiscriminate killing in Gaza and the IOF’s decimation of hospitals and the healthcare sector.

Since the outset of the war, the Palestinian Ministry of Health, in addition to the UN Palestinian refugees agency UNRWA, various humanitarian NGOs, and private sector medical organisations have been providing essential healthcare for the approximately 2.3 million people living in the Strip through 36 hospitals in Gaza.

Israel has alleged that Hamas uses hospitals to hide its headquarters and facilities, allegations that have so far proven unfounded.

Hamas holds the US administration and US President Joe Biden responsible for the horrific crimes, not just at the Al-Shifa Hospital but also throughout Gaza. Israel’s systematic slaughter and destruction testify to its criminal disregard for human values and to the true intention of the occupation forces – which is to drive the Palestinian people from their land.

Hamas called on the international community and the UN to condemn the crimes Israel has committed at the Al-Shifa Hospital and to launch an impartial investigation.

Since Israel unleashed its ruthless campaign against Gaza last October, it has killed over 32,000 Palestinians, more than 70 per cent of whom are women and children. It has severely wounded more than 75,000 people. Countless others remain missing under the rubble, while the occupation forces prevent ambulances and rescue teams from reaching them.

Photographs, videos, and live testimonies recorded by activists and journalists convey nightmarish scenes of corpses left to the elements to decompose. Many relate stories of callous murder, torture, and sexual abuse and rape and other unimaginable horrors, all speaking of unfathomable cruelty.

A Spokesman for the Gaza Civil Defence related how the IOF had summarily executed civilians who had their hands tied together in the courtyard of the Al-Shifa Hospital. Hundreds of decomposing bodies had been recovered from the ruins, he said, and found to have been pulverised by tanks and military bulldozers.

“It is hard to count the number of dead,” the spokesman said. “The occupation has destroyed all the buildings and infrastructure, bulldozed the area, and buried the bodies inside and around the compound.”

Among the many heartrending sights were those of our colleague, the journalist Ismail Al-Ghoul, identifying the body of his missing brother Khaled, and the wails of the family of Dr Yusra Al-Muqadama, who had remained behind to serve in the hospital with her two sons, Ahmed and Bilal, one of whom was also a doctor.

The three people were found dead with their hands tied behind their backs.

The Weekly learned further lurid details from Farouk Mohamed Hamad, 17, who survived one of the summary executions carried out by the IOF at the Al-Shifa Hospital.

“The Israeli Occupation Forces stripped off our clothes, bound our hands, and detained us for hours after taking our IDs. They then ordered us to go to southern Gaza, but then the occupation’s snipers opened fire on us, killing many of us who were defenceless, with our hands tied behind our backs.”

Another survivor of a collective execution, Dr Mira Al-Safadi, related how she was among a group forced into a killing field. “They fixed a yellow band around my hands, saying that it was to protect me from snipers. But its purpose was to track us. A sniper would shoot at anyone who tried to remove the band. There were red ones, as well, signifying that the person was injured or disabled.”

Another woman who had fled to the south of Gaza on foot with her children said that “we were sitting at home when the Israeli army stormed into the area with tanks. It dragged us out of our house and unleashed dogs against us. They killed my husband’s grandfather and my uncle near the hospital. They killed all the men and forced the women to head south. The streets around the hospital were filled with the corpses of people who the Israeli army killed in its assault against the hospital.”

Witnesses have confirmed that the IOF used highly flammable substances that can burn houses in minutes, employing them against people’s homes in the vicinity of the Al-Shifa Hospital. Afterwards, the IOF demolished the infrastructure and bulldozed everything, erasing the entire area.

Eyewitnesses said that the IOF had killed dozens of people inside their burning homes, with hundreds of the survivors forced to flee southwards.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 4 April, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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