Israeli Military Raids on Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital Leave UN, WHO, Red Cross Alarmed

Last Updated: November 15, 2023, 16:14 IST

Trash piles up at Al Shifa hospital during the Israeli ground operation around the hospital, in Gaza City November 12, 2023. (Ahmed El Mokhallalati/via Reuters)

“The protection of newborns, patients, medical staff and all civilians must override all other concerns,” said UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths

The UN and humanitarian agencies expressed alarm after Israeli forces raided Gaza’s largest hospital, demanding that thousands of patients and civilians there be protected. This follows an Israeli raid on Al-Shifa hospital, targeting what they say is a Hamas command centre in tunnels beneath thousands of patients and civilians seeking refuge from intense combat.

“I’m appalled by reports of military raids in Al Shifa hospital in Gaza,” UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said on X, formerly Twitter. “The protection of newborns, patients, medical staff and all civilians must override all other concerns,” he said. “Hospitals are not battlegrounds.”

World Health Organization chief (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus agreed. “Reports of military incursion into Al-Shifa hospital are deeply concerning,” he wrote on X, warning that the UN health agency had “lost touch again with health personnel at the hospital”. “We’re extremely worried for their and their patients’ safety.”

In a statement, the International Committee of the Red Cross said that it was “extremely concerned about the impact on sick and wounded people, medical staff, and civilians”. “All measures to avoid any consequences on them must be taken,” it said, insisting that “patients, medical staff, and civilians must be at all times protected”. The ICRC added that it was “in contact with all concerned authorities and we continue to closely monitor the situation”.

Israel vowed to crush Hamas after the Palestinian militant group launched unprecedented cross-border attacks that Israel says left 1,200 people dead with another 239 taken hostage. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says Israel’s ensuing air and ground offensive have killed 11,320 people, mostly civilians, including thousands of children. Al-Shifa is a key target in Israel’s campaign.

‘2,300 people inside hospital’

The United Nations has said it estimates that at least 2,300 people — patients, staff and displaced civilians — are inside and may be unable to escape because of fierce fighting. Witnesses have described horrific conditions inside the hospital, with medical procedures taking place without anaesthetic, families with scant food or water living in corridors and the stench of decomposing corpses filling the air.

The United Nations Children’s Agency (UNICEF) Director on Wednesday visited the Gaza Strip and met with children and their families in the Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, in the south of the territory. Russell is among the few officials to have visited the Gaza Strip since the war began following a surprise attack by Hamas on October 7.

“What I saw and heard was devastating. They have endured repeated bombardment, loss and displacement,” UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said in a statement. “Inside the Strip, there is nowhere safe for Gaza’s one million children to turn.” “The parties to the conflict are committing grave violations against children; these include killing, maiming, abductions, attacks on schools and hospitals, and the denial of humanitarian access – all of which UNICEF condemns,” she added.

(With agency inputs)

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