The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned on Tuesday that al-Shifa Hospital is ‘nearly a cemetery’ and unable to bury dead bodies as the facility is also tackling power cuts and a lack of fuel amid ongoing Israeli onslaught.
Christian Lindmeier, a spokesman for the WHO, said more than 600 patients were trapped in al-Shifa Hospital, the largest medical complex and central hospital located in the northern Rimal neighbourhood of Gaza City, with others sheltering in hallways.
‘Around the hospital, there are dead bodies which cannot be taken care of or not even be buried or taken away to any sort of morgue. The hospital is not working at all anymore as it should. It’s nearly a cemetery,’ he said.
The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza said there are at least 2,300 people still inside the hospital – up to 650 patients, 200 to 500 staff, and around 1,500 people seeking shelter.
Dr. Mohamed Abu Selmia, director of al-Shifa Hospital, said 179 people have been buried in a ‘mass grave’ in the complex.
‘We were forced to bury them in a mass grave,’ said Abu Selmia, adding that seven babies and 29 intensive care patients are among those buried.
Earlier, he said there were about 150 bodies decomposing, ‘leaving unpleasant odours,’ at the hospital as Israeli authorities had still not granted permission for those bodies to leave the facility to be buried.
Gaza’s Health Ministry official Munir al-Bursh, sobbing uncontrollably, also announced on Monday that stray dogs were eating the bodies of civilians in the yard of the besieged al-Shifa Hospital, as no one was able to bury the dead amid the bombardment.
‘We have no generators as those need fuel to run. There is no food, no water, no electricity, and no fuel in Shifa and we are here dealing with casualties,’ al-Bursh said.
Several reports have also said that the fighting has trapped patients and medics in Gaza’s largest hospital.
Another doctor at the al-Shifa Hospital warned that premature babies are at risk of imminent death after fuel ran out in the facility, with several infants already dying due to lack of power.
‘Unfortunately, this situation means that we are waiting for them to die one by one,’ Ahmad Mukhallati, the head of the plastic surgery department at the hospital, stated, adding that five premature babies had already died in recent days.
He went on to call for the ‘massacre’ to be stopped and for a ‘safe, guaranteed corridor’ to allow patients to be evacuated from the facility.
‘We’ve got only one socket where we put on the anaesthesia machine. We don’t do anything except for life-saving procedures now,’ Mukhallati pointed out.
The doctor added that the incubator machines, which ‘mimic the situation within the uterus’, require high levels of electricity.
‘(The babies) have to be fully isolated from the surrounding areas so they don’t get any infection as their immunity is not mature yet,’ he said.
A surgeon representing Doctors Without Borders (MSF) at the hospital echoed the same concerns.
‘The situation is very bad, it is inhuman. It’s a closed area, no one knows about us,’ he said in a voice note on Monday.
‘We don’t have electricity. There’s no water in the hospital. There’s no food. People will die in a few hours without functioning ventilators.’
The Israeli regime claims that Hamas resistance fighters are operating a command-and-control centre in tunnels underneath the hospital, what Hamas has dismissed on several occasions.
In a statement last week, the resistance movement asked UN officials to visit medical facilities to disprove Israel’s claims. Doctors inside the hospital also say there is no Hamas presence there.
The Palestinian Authority Minister of Health, Mai Al-Kaila, also said in a statement on Sunday that a ‘disaster’ is taking place in the hospitals in the besieged enclave.
‘There is a disaster happening in (Gaza) hospitals where patients are now dying without receiving their treatments, such as children and adult dialysis patients who die in their homes without receiving dialysis sessions,’ the statement said.
‘All 3,000 oncology patients who were being treated in Al-Rantisi and Al-Turki Hospital are now being left to die after the (Israeli) occupation expelled them from the hospitals,’ the statement added.
It also warned that all pregnant women, including those with high-risk pregnancies, cannot find any medical services.
It went on to add that blood stock inside hospitals had been spoiled due to cuts in electricity, and medical teams could no longer give blood to the sick and wounded who were bleeding.
‘The medical staff inside al-Shifa Hospital cannot move between the medical complex’s departments and buildings, as an Israeli drone fires at everyone who moves inside the complex,’ it noted.
Israel has launched relentless air and ground attacks on the coastal enclave, including hospitals, residences, and houses of worship, since Palestinian resistance movements launched their surprise attack, dubbed Operation Al-Aqsa Storm, against the regime on October 7.
At least 11,360 Palestinians have been killed, including 4,609 children and 3,100 women. More than 28,000 individuals have sustained injuries as well.
According to the Ministry of Health, 3,250 citizens are still missing or under the rubble, including 1,700 children.
- While bombing of homes and hospitals continues, Israeli politicians are now openly calling for Palestinians to be driven out of Gaza.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said on X he supports ‘voluntary migration’ of Palestinians in Gaza as the ‘right humanitarian solution’.
Referring to his comments, Mustafa Barghouti, general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, said the far-right minister ‘revealed the real policy and intentions of the Israeli government’.
‘Netanyahu himself said in the beginning of the Israeli war on Gaza that all Gazans must evict their homes. Ethnic cleansing is a war crime and it is done by bombarding an unprotected civilian population.’
On Monday, Knesset-members Danny Danon, former ambassador to the UN, and Ram Ben-Barak, former deputy director of the Mossad, published an article in the Wall Street Journal urging moving people of Gaza to nations that will accept them.
Israel’s controversial Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich responded: ‘I welcome the initiative of members of Knesset Ram Ben-Barak and Danny Danon on the voluntary immigration of Gaza Arabs to the countries of the world.
‘This is the right humanitarian solution for the residents of Gaza and the entire region.
‘The reception of refugees by the countries of the world that really want their best interests, with the support and generous financial assistance of the international community, and within the state of Israel is the only solution that will bring to the end of the suffering and pain of Jews and Arabs alike.’
In March, Smotrich received a backlash after saying the Palestinian people are ‘an invention’ of the past century, with Palestinian officials blasting his comments as proof of the ‘racist’ outlook of Israel’s far-right government.
‘Netanyahu is no longer someone we can talk to. We erased him and threw him away,’ said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier this month, as he stepped up the criticism of Israel amid the mounting death toll in Gaza.
According to the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, Israel has dropped more than 25,000 tonnes of explosives on the Gaza Strip since October 7 – equivalent to two nuclear bombs.
In comparison, the Little Boy nuclear bomb dropped by the United States on Hiroshima during World War II yielded 15,000 tonnes of high explosives and destroyed everything within a 1.6km (1-mile) radius.
Satellite imagery and photographs show entire neighbourhoods have been levelled, with many hospitals, schools, places of worship and homes damaged or destroyed by Israeli land, sea and air attacks. Entire communication systems and water treatment plants have also been disabled.
Two Qatari planes are heading to the Egyptian city of El Arish carrying equipment for a field hospital and special aid to support people in Gaza, Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said on X.
Warda al-Awawda, a nurse in the neonatal intensive care department at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in central Gaza, says there has been a rising influx of newborns requiring intensive care amid Israel’s ongoing bombardment of the enclave.
‘We have received more cases than the normal rate, because the cases we receive are not limited to premature newborns only,’ she told Al Jazeera.
‘We have received cases of newborns injured by bombings, or newborns who lost their fathers. The beds are full. On one occasion we received eight cases and we placed them in six incubators.’
Moreover, al-Awawda also pointed out a severe shortage of medical essentials – from drugs used to enhance the respiratory function of premature infants to medicines for heart patients, and even hand soap for medical workers to sterilise their hands.
The hospital – like the rest of the Gaza Strip – also suffers from a lack of potable water, which enhances the danger facing this group of children. ‘We cannot find water suitable for making breast milk for these children,’ she said.