The World Health Organization (WHO) has described Al-Shifa hospital in war torn Gaza as a “death zone”. A joint UN team led by the WHO assessed the hospital for one hour on Saturday in Gaza and saw signs of shelling and gunfire. The team included public health experts, logistics officers and security staff from various U.N. departments. The team described the hospital as a "death zone" and said the situation was "desperate," with the hospital basically not functioning as a medical facility due to scarcity of clean water, fuel, medicine and other essentials.
"Signs of shelling and gunfire were evident. The team saw a mass grave at the entrance of the hospital and were told more than 80 people were buried there," the WHO statement said.
About 2,500 people, among them many sick and injured, including amputees, walked south from the area of al-Shifa on Saturday after being asked to leave, the hospital director said, making their way through ruined streets and rotting corpses.
On Sunday, the WHO and Palestinian Red Crescent began evacuating those who were unable to flee on foot, including 32 babies in extremely critical condition, trauma patients with severely infected wounds due to a lack of antibiotics, and 29 patients with serious spinal injuries.
The babies were moved to the south of Gaza “in preparation for their transfer to the Emirates hospital in Rafah” in Egypt, the Palestinian Red Crescent said in a statement, through the Palestinian territory’s only connection to the outside world.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) released video clip on Sunday of what it said was a 55-metre tunnel 10 metres underground, which it had uncovered underneath a shed in the hospital complex. It also released footage it said showed one Thai and one Nepalese hostage, dated from the 7 October Hamas massacres, that appeared to be from Shifa’s CCTV system. The identities of the two men were not given.
The Israeli military has not commented on the WHO statement or the visit.
Israeli forces seized Al Shifa in their offensive across north Gaza last week, saying it concealed an underground Hamas command centre. The military said it found evidence of a Hamas base underground. Al Shifa staff say Israel has proven no such thing.
WHO reiterated its call for an immediate ceasefire and sustained humanitarian assistance, stressing that options for medical care in the small coastal enclave were dwindling.