"The world cannot stand silent while hospitals...are transformed into scenes of death, devastation"
As calls mount around the world for an immediate ceasefire and an end to Israel's indiscriminate attacks, Al-Jazeera reports on Sunday that the director general of hospitals in Gaza warns the lives of hundreds of patients are at risk because of the catastrophic situation at al-Shifa Hospital.
Palestinian Minister of Health Mai al-Kaila says Israeli forces “are not evacuating people from hospitals; instead they are forcibly evicting the wounded onto the streets, leaving them to face inevitable death”. Gaza City’s al-Shifa Hospital has been caught in Israel’s ground offensive and health officials say its cardiac ward has been destroyed.
The UN reports that the regional directors of the UN sexual and reproductive health agency (UNFPA), children’s agency UNICEF and health agency WHO, said they were “horrified” at latest reports which indicate many have been killed – including children – in facilities across Gaza city and other northern areas of the Strip:
WHO has lost communication with its contacts at Al Shifa Hospital, the largest in Gaza, where news reports quoting the health ministry, say that five wounded patients have died because they could not be operated on due to a lack of fuel.
Two babies in the intensive care unit there were reported to have died on Saturday, with water, food and electricity cut off.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed grave concern for the safety of staff and patients caught in crossfire late on Saturday noting that Israeli tanks were reportedly surrounding Al Shifa.
“Premature and new-born babies on life support are reportedly dying due to power, oxygen, and water cuts at Al-Shifa Hospital, while others are at risk. Staff across a number of hospitals are reporting lack of fuel, water and basic medical supplies, putting the lives of all patients at immediate risk.”
Doctors and nurses in the Gaza Strip issued urgent pleas for a cease-fire as Israeli forces encircled and attacked the territory's largest hospital, trapping thousands of displaced people and threatening the lives of medical workers and patients.
One Doctors Without Borders nurse texted his colleagues from the basement of al-Shifa Hospital early Saturday, writing that "four or five families"—including his own—were sheltering there amid heavy bombardment and fighting around the facility.
"We are being killed here, please do something," the nurse wrote. "The shelling is so close, my kids are crying and screaming in fear."
Horrifying stories continue to emerge from the killing fields:
The pleas have gone unheeded and as evening comes on Sunday in Gaza Al-Jazeera quoted Dr Marwan Abusada, head of surgery at al-Shifa Hospital, who says fighting continues around the facility and the situation grows more desperate by the hour.
“Shooting and bombardment are everywhere you hear it at every second around the al-Shifa Hospital. No one can get out. No one can come in. People who tried evacuate the hospital, they were shot at in the streets. Some got killed, some injured,” he told Al Jazeera.
“We don’t have electricity, we don’t have water, we don’t even have food. We have a lot of dead people and we would like to bury their bodies. But it is sad to say it is too dangerous. We tried to make a large grave, but the Israelis attacked us.”
The situation is Dantesque in its grotesque scenes:
“We asked to be able to bury the bodies, but anyone who goes out into the courtyard of al-Shifa hospital gets shot,” said Mohammed Zaqut, director-general of Gaza hospitals.
The Gaza health ministry, he added, is “no longer able” to report on the dead and injured due to lack of access.
An al-Shifa ambulance driver also confirmed that their vehicles have come under Israeli sniper fire while trying to approach the bodies.
The world cannot stand silent while hospitals, which should be safe havens, are transformed into scenes of death, devastation, and despair.
Decisive international action is needed now to secure an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and prevent further loss of life, and preserve what’s left of the health care system in Gaza.
Unimpeded, safe and sustained access is needed now to provide fuel, medical supplies and water for these lifesaving services. The violence must end now.
At least 192 medical staff, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza. Of them, at least 16 medical staff were killed on duty, according to the World Health Organization.
101 UNRWA staff have been killed, the highest number of UN personnel killed in a conflict in the history of the organisation.
18 Palestinian civil defence personnel.
44 Palestinian journalists have also been killed.
More than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed at this point.