Gaza’s biggest hospital has buried 179 people, including babies, in a “mass grave” inside its compound, Al Shifa Hospital chief Mohammad Abu Salmiyah said Tuesday, underlining the catastrophic humanitarian crisis developing at medical facilities across the region.
“We were forced to bury them in a mass grave,” the hospital director said. Seven babies and 29 patients from the intensive care unit were buried after the hospital’s fuel supplies ran out.
“There are bodies littered in the hospital complex. There is no more electricity…”
A journalist, who is collaborating with AFP, said the stench of decomposing bodies was everywhere.
A surgeon at the hospital, working with Doctors Without Borders, called the situation “inhuman”.
“We don’t have electricity. There’s no water in the hospital. There’s no food.”
The Al Shifa Hospital is Gaza City’s largest and was cut off from the world for over 72 hours last week after a deadly blockade by Israeli forces that included tanks at the front gates; Tel Aviv insists the hospital sits atop a network of tunnels that form part of the Hamas’ underground headquarters.
Israel has accused the terror group of using hospitals and patients as human shields, an accusation the Hamas and Gaza health officials have denied. In a separate incident, Israel claimed to have discovered a tunnel leading into another hospital from the home of a known Hamas operative.
The United Nations believes thousands, and perhaps more than 10,000 – including patients, staff and displaced civilians – may be inside and unable to escape because of fierce fighting nearby.
Hospitals, and medical personnel, are protected under international humanitarian law and parties in conflict must ensure their protection. They cannot be used to shield military objectives from attack, but any operation around or within must protect patients, staff, and other civilians, the United Nations’ Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in its Monday update from Gaza.
Israel had pledged to help evacuate the babies. That has not happened so far.
Earlier today, a heart-breaking image emerged from the same hospital – of seven babies bundled together, some in non-descript, hospital-green fabric and others with tubes sticking out of them.
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“Yesterday I had 39 babies… today 36,” Dr Mohamed Tabasha, the paediatric head, told Reuters Monday. “I cannot say how long they can last. I can lose another two babies today… or in an hour.”