The Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza, the largest in the region, is currently facing severe challenges, as observed by a joint United Nations humanitarian assessment team, including the World Health Organization (WHO). The team, which gained access to the hospital on Saturday, reported alarming conditions during their one-hour visit.
The hospital corridors are overwhelmed with medical and solid waste. Near the entrance, at least 80 bodies have been placed in a mass grave. The WHO noted that the hospital’s medical services had recently ceased, leading to the deaths of several patients in the past few days. Currently, the hospital is severely understaffed, with only 25 health workers attending to 291 patients. This includes 32 critically ill premature babies.
The hospital’s power supply was cut off earlier in the week due to a shortage of fuel for generators, contributing to the death of some patients. The U.N. representatives have now labeled Al-Shifa, once known for its advanced facilities, as a “death zone.”
The WHO is coordinating efforts to safely transfer the remaining patients from Al-Shifa to other medical facilities in Gaza, such as the Nasser Medical Complex and European Gaza Hospital. However, these hospitals are already operating at full capacity, and the additional influx of patients from Al-Shifa is expected to further strain their resources.
The Israeli military has advised Palestinians in Gaza to move further south along a designated safety corridor. Despite this, there have been daily Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire in these areas, which Israel claims are safer for civilians. These attacks have impacted schools, residential buildings, and overcrowded U.N. shelters.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) allege that Hamas has converted tunnels beneath the hospital into a command center and used patients and staff as shields. Israel released a video showing weapons found in one of the tunnels but has not provided conclusive evidence of a sophisticated command center. Hamas denies using Al-Shifa as a command center.
On Saturday, the IDF issued evacuation orders for approximately 2,500 people sheltering on the hospital grounds. By the time the U.N. team arrived, these individuals, along with some patients and staff, had been evacuated.
Negotiations for a cease-fire to ensure safe movement in Gaza and the return of hostages to Israel are ongoing. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that there is currently no deal on the table. The White House National Security Council Spokesperson, Adrienne Watson, also clarified that no agreement has been reached yet between the U.S., Israel, and Hamas, contrary to some reports.