Gaza’s largest hospital buried 179 people, including babies, in a “mass grave” inside its complex, Al Shifa Hospital head Mohammad Abu Salmiyah said on Tuesday, highlighting the catastrophic humanitarian crisis that the region knows. “We were forced to bury them in a mass grave,” explained the hospital director.
Seven babies and 29 intensive care unit patients were buried after the hospital’s fuel reserves ran out. “There are dead bodies strewn around the hospital complex. There is no electricity…”
According to a journalist who works with AFP, the stench of decomposing bodies was omnipresent. A surgeon at the hospital, working for Médecins Sans Frontières, described the situation as “inhumane”. “We have no electricity. There is no water. There is no food.”
Al Shifa Hospital is the largest in Gaza City and was cut off from the world for more than 72 hours last week after a deadly blockade by Israeli forces, which included tanks at the entrance gates; Tel Aviv insists the hospital sits atop a network of tunnels that are part of Hamas’ underground headquarters.
READ | Israeli tanks outside Gaza hospital, doctors say ‘stuck in circle of death’
Israel has accused the terror group of using hospitals and patients as human shields, a charge denied by Hamas and Gaza health officials. In another incident, Israel claimed to have discovered a tunnel leading to another hospital from the home of a known Hamas member.
READ | Hamas tunnel with bulletproof doors leads to Gaza hospital, Israel says
The United Nations estimates that thousands of people, possibly more than 10,000, including patients, staff and displaced civilians, may be inside Al Shifa and unable to escape due to violent fighting nearby.
Al Quds, the region’s second major hospital, has been cut off from the world for a week.
Hospitals and medical personnel are protected by international humanitarian law and parties to the conflict must ensure their protection. They cannot be used to protect military objectives from attack, but any operations around or within them must protect patients, staff and other civilians, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in his Monday update from Gaza.
Israel pledged to help evacuate the babies. This has not happened so far.
Earlier today, a heartbreaking image emerged from the same hospital – of seven babies swaddled together, some in nondescript hospital green fabric and others with tubes sticking out of them.
READ | Babies from Gaza arranged in rows to keep warm; “I was 39, now I have 36 left,” says doctor
These seven are among 39 born prematurely – they weigh less than 1.5kg each. Everyone must be in incubators so that body temperature can be regulated. Instead, they were moved to regular beds – placed side by side and covered with packs of diapers and boxes of sterile gauze – over the weekend, because there is no longer any fuel to operate the beds. generators that power the incubators.
“Yesterday I had 39 babies… today 36,” Dr Mohamed Tabasha, head of pediatrics, told Reuters on Monday. “I can’t say how long they may last. I could lose two more babies today…or in an hour.”
By the end of the day, three more patients (and nine adult patients) had died, AFP reported.
The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says the attack has already killed 11,240 people, most of whom are civilians and at least 40 percent of them children.
Israel has vowed “revenge” for the October 7 Hamas terror attack that killed more than 1,200 people, including children, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under growing international pressure – after many Western countries initially refused to openly criticize Tel Aviv for its brutal attacks.
Faced with this pressure, Israel agreed to daily pauses in its military operations around specified humanitarian “corridors” to allow civilians to flee the fighting. However, Israel has so far resisted calls for a broader ceasefire, insisting it will not be allowed until all Hamas hostages are freed.
With the contribution of agencies
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