"As I speak, the sound of tank shells is exploding everywhere around the hospital. All the other hospitals in Gaza have collapsed. There's only a handful of doctors and nurses left at Al-Shifa, with the most critically wounded," Dr Ghassan Abu-Sittah, British Palestinian Surgeon from Al-Ahli Hospital, the only 'functioning' hospital in Gaza City, told media organisations in a voice note on Sunday, 12 November.
This was hours after Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest hospital in Gaza, became the focal point of intense fighting between Israeli troops and Hamas militants on 11 November – even as hundreds of children, including several babies, continued to remain trapped inside.
The hospital has buried at least 179 people, including babies, in a "mass grave" inside its compound, Al-Shifa Hospital Chief Mohammad Abu Salmiyah told the media on Tuesday, 14 November.
“Around the hospital, there are dead bodies which cannot be taken care of or not even be buried or taken away to any sort of morgue. The hospital is not working at all any more as it should. It’s nearly a cemetery,” World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said.
'The Situation is Inhuman': MSF Surgeon in Al-Shifa
In a statement, a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) surgeon, who is working inside the Al-Shifa Hospital said that the medical team has agreed to leave the hospital only if patients are evacuated first. According to the doctor, there are at least 600 in-patients and 37 babies receiving treatment.
“We don’t have electricity. There’s no water in the hospital. There’s no food. People will die in a few hours without functioning ventilators. In front of the main gate, there are many bodies, there are also injured patients, we can’t bring them inside. When we sent the ambulance to bring the patients, a few metres away, they attacked the ambulance. There are injured people around the hospital, they are looking for medical care, we can’t bring them inside," the surgeon said, according to MSF South Asia's X (formerly Twitter) handle.
"The situation is very bad, it is inhuman. It’s a closed area, no one knows about us. We don’t have an internet connection, you managed to call me now, maybe you’ll try 10 times before you can reach me again," the surgeon added.
'Will Evacuate Hospital Only After Patients Are Safely Evacuated'
The WHO, in a post on X, said that there are at least 200 healthcare workers and about 1,500 "internally displaced people" seeking shelter inside the hospital.
"We need a guarantee that there is a safe corridor because we saw some people trying to leave Al-Shifa, they killed them, they bombed them, and the sniper killed them. Inside the Al-Shifa hospital, there are injured patients and medical teams. If they give us guarantees and evacuate the patients first, we will evacuate,” the MSF surgeon further added.
Why Are Israeli Troops Targeting Al-Shifa?
According to Israel's claims, the militant group Hamas has built its headquarters in the bunkers and tunnels of the hospitals in Gaza. The group has used patients and medical staff as 'human shields', the Israeli government has claimed.
“The United States does not want to see firefights in hospitals where innocent people, patients receiving medical care are caught in the crossfire and we’ve had active consultations with the Israeli Defence Forces on this," White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CBS News in an interview.
Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest medical complex and central hospital in the Gaza Strip, turned into a refugee camp and a bomb shelter, with severely injured people huddled all over in the hope that they live to see another day, a doctor told FIT a month earlier.
Just four hours after FIT spoke to doctors at Al-Shifa Hospital on 11 October, Gaza turned completely dark – with the sole power station in the Gaza Strip running out of fuel. While the authorities had said that the fuel would last for about 12 hours, earlier in the day, the power station lost its ability to function sooner than expected.
"Every five minutes people are walking into the hospitals. If I could send you photos, you'll see that there are patients everywhere. Sitting in the lawns, in the corridors, on staircases. We have patients everywhere. We are already unable to get people to the operating theatre because there's no electricity. There is constant bombing. If you save one life, there are 10 other incoming patients. We don't know what to do," a doctor, who did not want to be named, had explained to FIT.
According to the Health Ministry's statement, in Hamas-run Gaza, the attacks have killed over 11,000 people, most of whom are civilians and at least 40 percent of whom were children.