Gaza's largest hospital, Al-Shifa, ‘Has become a mass grave’
Gaza Strip’s largest medical complex and central hospital, Al-Shifa Hospital, ’has become a mass grave’ according to its director, Muhammad Abu Salmiya.
Speaking after Israeli tanks advanced to the gates of the hospital on Monday, Salmiya stood his ground and refused to abandon the patients in the hospital, as he expressed his determination to continue to oversee the more than 650 patients remaining inside.
Premature babies no longer sustained inside incubators
Among them, are dozens of premature babies, which up to now have been kept in incubators. But, as power supplies have run out, these vulnerable newborns had to be removed from the controlled environments and placed huddled together on mats – in the hope that their collective body warmth may keep them alive. In the last couple of days, the hospital has reported the deaths of at least two of the babies since the closure of the neonatal unit at the hospital.
Doctors at the hospital have issued an urgent plea to save the lives of 39 premature babies, who now face imminent death due to power shortages and the closure of the incubators.
"We are under a full blockade"
Speaking to journalists on a rare phone call, one of the hospital’s surgeons, Dr Ahmed El Mokhallalati, spoke in desperation as he begged for a cessation of the onslaught.
He said: "The tanks are in front of the hospital. We are under full blockade. It's a totally civilian area…Only hospital patients, doctors and other civilians are staying in the hospital. Someone should stop this…We are hardly surviving."
As at Tuesday afternoon, the collapsing medical systems in the hospital and medicine shortages have meant that primitive makeshift operating procedures had to be adopted.
One surgeon at the hospital speaking on the phone to reporters declared: "We have rationed the anaesthetics in the operating rooms – which means that we are having to do excruciatingly painful wound clean-up procedures with no anaesthetic and analgesic – sometimes with very little local anaesthetic injected into the wounds."
Israeli snipers and drones firing directly into the hospital
A Gaza Health Ministry spokesperson, Ashraf al-Qudra said that Israeli snipers and drones were firing directly into the hospital and that it was impossible for medics and patients to move around. He further pointed out that at the very least the hospital needs a minimum of 8,000-10,000 litres (2,100-2,600 gallons) of fuel per day to function – which he said could be delivered by any international agency or the Red Cross.
Mass graves in the hospital grounds with more than 200 bodies
As the afternoon progressed, reports are emerging that mass graves are being dug in the grounds of the hospital, with one doctor reporting that in one grave there were as many as 200 bodies.
The UN has warned that the continued denial of fuel to the hospital will mean that premature babies and dialysis patients will die.
Israel continues to maintain that Hamas is running a control centre beneath the hospital, a claim which hospital staff and management wholeheartedly refute.
UN Secretary General calls for ceasefire 'In the name of humanity'
The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday that he was "deeply disturbed by the horrible situation" in Gaza hospitals, as he reviewed the mounting numbers of decomposing bodies during the Israeli bombardment.
His spokesperson said: "The Secretary-General is deeply disturbed by the horrible situation and dramatic loss of life in several hospitals in Gaza."
He added that Gutterres had made a plea to Israel and the world: "In the name of humanity, the Secretary-General calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire."
Last week a collection of UN agencies working in the region - United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency (UNFPA), and the World Health Organization (WHO), reported that women, children and newborns in Gaza were disproportionately bearing the burden of the escalation of hostilities in the occupied Palestinian territory.
According to the Gaza Health Ministry, the death toll has exceeded 11,200, with more than 4300 children among them.