Israeli attacks on Gaza’s hospitals transform sanctuaries into morgues

AFP , AP , Ahram Online , Sunday 12 Nov 2023

Israel’s ground assault in northern Gaza, paired with continued air and artillery bombardment, is creating havoc in hospitals and killing more and more people in what were some of the few sanctuaries available for Palestinians.

Palestinians mourn their relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, in the hospital in Khan Younis, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. AP


“Medical devices stopped. Patients, especially those in intensive care, started to die,” Director of Al-Shifa Hospital Complex Mohammed Abu Salmiya said.

He affirmed that the hospital, the largest in Gaza, is "totally surrounded and bombardment is going on nearby." Israeli troops were "shooting at anyone outside or inside the hospital," preventing movement between buildings, he added.

"The medical team cannot work and the bodies, in their dozens, cannot be managed or buried," he said.

Meanwhile, the Spokesman for the Ministry of Health in Gaza Ashraf Al-Qudra told the Arab World News Agency that the hospital is unable to provide any medical service, as the electricity was completely cut off and the complex was besieged by Israeli tanks.

Al-Qudra added that the situation around the hospital is a “war zone,” noting that the conditions for patients in the complex "cannot be described."

People are dying, one after another, the spokesman said, as a result of the hospital’s inability to perform surgeries, provide oxygen to those who need it, or heat children’s incubators.

International health organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO), the Red Cross, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Refugees (UNRWA), "are all unable to do anything and have lost their ability to work."

Thousands have already fled Al-Shifa, but the fighting has prevented thousands more from leaving.

The health ministry said there are still 1,500 patients at Al-Shifa, along with 1,500 medical personnel and between 15,000 and 20,000 people who sought shelter there.

"If we do not stop this bloodshed immediately with a ceasefire or at the bare minimum a medical evacuation of patients, these hospitals will become a morgue," the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned Sunday.

Inside Al-Shifa Hospital, MSF surgeon Mohammed Obeid said there was no water, power, food, or internet for about 600 post-operative patients, 37-40 babies, and 17 people in intensive care.

Two babies died in the neonatal unit after power to their incubators was cut off; a man also died when his ventilator shut down, the surgeon said in an audio message posted Saturday on social media.

Israeli snipers had shot four patients within the hospital, he said, with one man hit in the neck and another in the abdomen.

The “unbearably desperate situation” at Al-Shifa must stop now, the International Committee of the Red Cross Director-General Robert Mardini said on social media.

Furthermore, the World Health Organization said it has lost communication with its contacts at Al-Shifa, expressing its grave concern for the safety of healthcare workers, patients, and displaced people sheltering at the hospital.

Elsewhere, the Palestinian Red Crescent said Israeli tanks were 20 metres (65 feet) from Al-Quds hospital in Gaza City, causing “extreme panic and fear.”

It called on the international community and humanitarian groups to intervene "immediately and urgently" to protect people in Al-Quds Hospital.

Artillery shelling nearby was "causing the building to shake," the Red Crescent said Saturday, reporting "intense shooting at the hospital" where there were about 500 patients and more than 14,000 people seeking shelter.

Infants are facing dehydration because of a lack of breast milk alternatives, it said.

On Sunday, the hospital ran out of fuel and electricity and is no longer able to provide medical services, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

"Medical staff are making every effort to provide care to patients and the wounded. Repeated appeals for urgent international assistance, given the week-long siege and a five-day communication and internet blackout, have been unsuccessful. The hospital has been left to fend for itself under ongoing Israeli bombardment, posing severe risks to the medical staff, patients, and displaced civilians," the PRCS said in a statement.

"The Palestine Red Crescent Society holds the international community and signatories of the Fourth Geneva Convention accountable for the complete breakdown of the health system and the resulting dire humanitarian conditions."

Twenty of Gaza's 36 hospitals are "no longer functioning," according to the UN's humanitarian agency.

Other hospitals crippled by the fighting include the Indonesian Hospital in north Gaza, where the director Atef Al-Kahlot said lack of fuel forced the facility to cut power to their desalination plant, medical scanners, and lifts.

"The hospital is working with 30-40 percent of its capacity," Al-Kahlot said.

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