In the Gaza Strip, the Al-Shifa Hospital, a major medical complex, has become a focal point of a deepening humanitarian crisis. In a recent interview, Mohammad Abu Salmiya, the director of Al-Shifa, painted a harrowing picture of the situation.
Dire Conditions Amid Conflict
Abu Salmiya's phone interview with Al-Jazeera Arabic revealed the extent of the crisis: over 650 wounded, 36 premature babies, 45 kidney patients, and around 5,000 displaced people are currently within the hospital's walls.
A particularly distressing aspect is the plight of the children. “The children are starving – and here I mean the displaced children because they need milk and there is no water to make milk for them,” Abu Salmiya explained.
The situation is further exacerbated by the lack of critical medical supplies. Abu Salmiya reported the death of a kidney patient, with four others on the verge of death due to the unavailability of dialysis for days.
Hospital Under Military Presence
The situation took a more troubling turn with Abu Salmiya's accusation against the Israeli military.
He claimed that they have besieged the hospital, causing sabotage in some sections and freely roaming the premises for the last 48 hours. This claim followed an announcement by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) stating they had initiated “a precise and targeted operation against Hamas in a specified area in the Shifa Hospital”.
Abu Salmiya expressed his frustration and despair, holding both the world and the Israeli occupation responsible for the dire circumstances. He called for immediate intervention to alleviate the suffering. The director described the hospital as a large prison, overwhelmed with over 7,000 displaced people, medical staff, patients, and wounded individuals.
The Israeli military's actions have led to a complete breakdown of essential life-saving services, leaving the hospital in a state of paralysis, unable to provide basic necessities to those in its care. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, recently underscored the urgent need for an independent investigation into the ongoing conflict in Gaza, particularly concerning the Al-Shifa Hospital.
This call for impartiality comes amidst a backdrop of increasing international scrutiny and competing narratives from Israel and Hamas.
The Al-Shifa Hospital Controversy
At the center of this controversy is Israel's claim of a Hamas command center operating beneath the Al-Shifa Hospital.
This assertion has been vehemently denied by the Hamas-run government media office, which labeled the Israeli claims as "baseless lies." The Israeli military's raid on the hospital has drawn international attention, prompting calls for a thorough and unbiased investigation.
Türk emphasized the special protection hospitals enjoy under humanitarian law, stating, “You cannot use civilian, especially hospitals, for any military purposes. But you also cannot attack a hospital in the absence of clear evidence." The complexity of the situation is evident in the contrasting claims from both sides, highlighting the need for an independent inquiry.