A team of United Nations humanitarian workers visited Al-Shifa hospital in northern Gaza this Saturday, as reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in a distressing post. The visit, lasting only an hour, coincided with heavy fighting near the hospital, underscoring the dangerous conditions under which the facility operates.
UN staff described the situation at the hospital as a "death zone," with clear evidence of shelling and gunfire. The team encountered a mass grave at the hospital's entrance, where it was reported that over 80 people were buried, illustrating the severe impact of the ongoing conflict on civilians and medical facilities alike.
Dire Medical Situation Amidst Conflict
The WHO's report paints a bleak picture of the healthcare crisis inside Al-Shifa. In the last few days, several patients died due to the cessation of medical services. The hospital, now a shadow of its former self, houses 25 health workers and 291 patients, many of whom are in dire need of medical attention.
This includes 32 critically ill infants, two intensive care patients without access to ventilation, and 22 dialysis patients whose treatment has been severely compromised. Staff and patients expressed their fear and desperation, with many pleading for evacuation.
The WHO is urgently developing plans to move these individuals to safer locations in southern Gaza. The vast majority of the patients are war trauma victims, suffering from complex injuries, and many are at risk due to the lack of infection control and antibiotics.
Context of the Crisis: Al-Shifa as a Battlefield
Israel launched an operation against Hamas early Wednesday morning at Gaza's largest hospital, Al-Shifa, which was sheltering thousands of displaced Palestinians along with patients and medical staff.
Israel claims Hamas is using the hospital for military purposes, including a command center under the facility, an allegation both Hamas and hospital officials deny. The validity of these claims remains unverified by independent sources.
The days following the operation have transformed the hospital from a civilian sanctuary into a battlefield, exacerbating an already dire humanitarian situation. Israel now faces increasing international pressure to substantiate its claims about Hamas' activities within the hospital.
Failure to provide concrete evidence could potentially lead to accusations of serious violations of international humanitarian law.