November 20232023WorldWorldInternational NewsMiddle EastHuman Rights LawConflict and Security

Al-Shifa Under Attack: Israeli Aggression targets Gaza Hospital System

Yasmin Obeidallah
Staff Writer

The Al-Shifa hospital is the latest target of the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) indiscriminate bombardment of the Gaza Strip, threatening the lives of patients, medical staff, and thousands of displaced Palestinians who are sheltering in Gaza’s largest hospital. Since the IDF began its raid on the hospital complex on October 15, Israel has cut off the hospital and its inhabitants from all communications to the outside world, Reuters reports. Reuters further states that Israel believes that an underground Hamas command center is operating in the tunnels underneath the Al-Shifa hospital, a claim that both Hamas leaders and hospital officials deny. 

As Israeli forces advance their attacks on the hospital and surrounding areas, the international community has raised concerns for the sick, injured, and displaced. According to Al Jazeera, Israel’s total siege of the area has deprived over 650 patients, 500 medical staff, and approximately 5,000 to 7,000 displaced individuals sheltering in Al-Shifa of electricity and fuel. Al-Shifa Hospital Director Mohammad Abu Salmiya says Palestinians are trapped in the hospital with no way to escape as Israel surrounds the facility, forcing the staff to bury dozens of patients in mass graves in the courtyard of the hospital. The dead include 29 intensive care patients and three premature babies. Abu Salmiya says that the hospital has been under occupational authority since the raid began, stating that he, his patients, and the displaced are “waiting a slow death,” with no access to food or water, Reuters continues. 

Doctors in Gaza have reported a dire humanitarian crisis around the Strip, and especially in hospitals, since before the raid of Al-Shifa Hospital. Al Jazeera reports that at least 21 of Gaza’s 35 hospitals are now out of service due to Israeli bombardment or lack of fuel and medicines. All hospitals in northern Gaza have suspended operations. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that doctors in Gaza have resorted to performing amputations and other operations without anesthesia, says CNN.

The most vulnerable are trapped inside the Al-Shifa complex. Thirty-six premature babies in incubators with complex health needs remain at risk of dying as the shortage of fuel and electricity continues to threaten the hospital, says ABC News. According to NPR, at least 200 healthcare workers have been killed while on duty. As thousands fled Al-Shifa Hospital and surrounding areas, 

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has described the situation at Al-Shifa as “catastrophic” and calls on the Israeli government to cease their “unrelenting assault on Gaza’s health system. MSF and other international organizations, including Human Rights Watch, urge Israel to comply with international humanitarian law, which states that hospitals and ambulances have protected status during armed conflict. A. Kayum Ahmed, an adviser on the right to health at Human Rights Watch, has stated that military activity in and around hospitals in Gaza has taken the lives of hundreds and put thousands of patients at risk due to a lack of proper medical care. WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier has stressed the “desperate need” of Gazan civilians for water, fuel, food, and safe access to health care to survive. 

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