‘We are minutes away from death’: Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital Under Attack

According to Palestinian health authorities, infants in incubators are struggling for survival amid the siege imposed by Israel on the compound.

The Israeli military has escalated the conflict to the immediate vicinity of al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest hospital complex, trapping thousands of injured and displaced individuals amid intense bombardment at its doorstep.

“We are on the brink of imminent death,” stated Muhammad Abu Salmiya, the director of al-Shifa Hospital, said in an interview on Saturday. Operations within the besieged facility had to be halted as it depleted its power and fuel supplies.

Abu Salmiya expressed that al-Shifa’s structures are under direct attack, and individuals moving within the hospital compound are being targeted by Israeli snipers.

“One member of a medical crew who tried to reach the incubator to lend a helping hand to the babies born inside was shot and killed,” he said. “We lost a baby in the incubator, we also lost a young man in the intensive care unit.”

Dr. Youssef Abu al-Reesh, the Deputy Health Minister in Gaza, presently located within al-Shifa Hospital, informed the public that all generators are inactive, and the hospital is completely without power from any source.

“We have 39 newborns in the incubators, those babies are fighting against death.”

He also mentioned that snipers are positioned around the compound, restricting the free movement of people inside.

“There’s intense gunfire in the vicinity of the hospital, and the intensive care unit was hit by a mortar shell a few minutes ago. Blood is everywhere on the floor, and we can’t even clean it,” he added.

Regarding the hospital’s location in the northern Rimal neighborhood, close to the port, it has served as a medical facility since 1946, undergoing successive expansions. The hospital has become a crucial resource for those in need of urgent medical attention.

In the midst of Israel’s ongoing bombardment, thousands of people who have lost their homes are also residing in the hospital corridors and courtyard.

Israel alleges that al-Shifa serves as a cover for a Hamas command center, an accusation rejected by the hospital’s director as “utter lies.” Hamas also denies these claims.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, visiting the region, stated that any armed group using civilian infrastructure as a shield violates the laws of war. However, he emphasized that such conduct by Palestinian armed groups doesn’t absolve Israel of its obligation to ensure the protection of civilians, and failure to do so also breaches the laws of war, causing devastating impacts on civilians.

Al Jazeera correspondent James Bays, highlighted, “So that’s the top human rights official saying that targeting a hospital is a war crime.” Bays also pointed out that none of the doctors or staff at al-Shifa have reported seeing Hamas members in the hospital for years.

“We are unable to perform burials for our deceased,” Doctors Without Borders, also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), supplied al-Shifa Hospital with the remaining medicines and equipment from its stock. On Saturday, the NGO expressed its inability to contact its staff within the hospital, expressing extreme concern for both patients and medical personnel.

Fabrizio Carboni, the Red Cross’s Regional Director for the Near and Middle East, remarked that the information emerging from al-Shifa was distressing. He emphasized that the thousands of individuals within the compound must be safeguarded in accordance with the laws of war.

Speaking from inside the hospital on Saturday, Gaza’s deputy health minister, Monir al-Bashr, stated that people were compelled to use their hands for burial activities within the hospital compound.

“We are surrounded, and we cannot bury our dead. We are going to create a mass grave within the hospital compound,” he pressed. “We lack the equipment or machinery to dig the grave. It’s imperative to bury these bodies, or else epidemics will break out. These bodies have been lying on the street for days.”

As the conflict escalates near the hospital’s front gate, the outlook appears grim for Abu Salmiya, the hospital’s director. “We are completely cut off from the entire world. We are stranded, and we have sent numerous SOS messages to the whole world—no response, no response,” he lamented.

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