In Gaza’s Shifa Hospital, UN team finds ‘death zone’: NPR

The bodies of dead Palestinians killed in Israeli air strikes appear in a truck at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Sunday, November 5, 2023.

Abed Khaled/AFP


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The bodies of dead Palestinians killed in Israeli air strikes appear in a truck at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Sunday, November 5, 2023.

Abed Khaled/AFP

TEL AVIV, Israel – Piles of medical and solid waste fill the crowded corridors of Gaza’s largest hospital, according to the World Health Organization. There are at least 80 bodies lying in a mass grave at the entrance to the hospital.

The organizations said that the United Nations Joint Humanitarian Assessment Team, led by the World Health Organization, was able to arrive for the first time from abroad to Al-Shifa Hospital on Saturday, and witnessed for itself the difficult conditions the hospital is experiencing. The team was only able to see the hospital for one hour.

At that time, they found that many patients had died in the past two or three days due to the closure of medical services at the facility, according to the World Health Organization. Now there are only 25 health workers to help the remaining 291 patients, including 32 premature babies in “extremely critical condition.”

The hospital reported that it lost power after running out of fuel to run its generators earlier this week, causing the death of some patients.

UN representatives have now described Gaza’s advanced and best-equipped referral hospital as a “death zone.”

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The World Health Organization is working to ensure the safe passage of the remaining patients

Palestinians flee into the southern Gaza Strip along Salah al-Din Street on the outskirts of Gaza City in front of an Israeli army bulldozer on Saturday, November 18, 2023.

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Palestinians flee into the southern Gaza Strip along Salah al-Din Street on the outskirts of Gaza City in front of an Israeli army bulldozer on Saturday, November 18, 2023.

Adel Hanna/AFP

The Shifa area has become a focus of Israeli military operations in recent days. As military operations in Gaza increase, the UN team is working to safely evacuate the remaining patients in the hospital.

The World Health Organization said: “Over the next 24 to 72 hours, and pending guarantees of safe passage by the parties to the conflict, additional missions are being arranged to urgently transfer patients from Shifa to the Nasser Medical Complex and the Gaza European Hospital in southern Gaza.” He said in a statement. “However, these hospitals are already working beyond capacity, and new referrals from Al Shifa Hospital will increase pressure on overburdened health staff and resources.”

The Israeli army asked Palestinians in Gaza to evacuate south along the so-called safety corridor. Evidence shows that Israeli air strikes and artillery shelling occur daily in the same areas that Israel says are “safer” for civilians. These attacks hit schools, residential towers and overcrowded United Nations shelters.

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The Israeli army claimed that Hamas had turned the tunnels under the hospital into a command center and used patients and staff to provide cover for its militants. On Wednesday, Israel published a video of weapons it said it found in one of the tunnels, but it has not yet revealed evidence that it is an advanced command center. Hamas denied using Shifa as a command center.

Earlier on Saturday, the Israeli army issued evacuation orders for the remaining 2,500 people who took refuge on the grounds of Al-Shifa Hospital. The World Health Organization said these civilians, along with some patients and hospital workers, had been evacuated by the military by the time the UN team arrived for its visit.

As part of the October 7 attacks carried out by Hamas in Israel, approximately 240 people were kidnapped. Negotiations are still ongoing on a potential ceasefire that would allow people in Gaza to move safely and hand over hostages to Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that “there is no agreement on the table and I cannot expand beyond that.”

White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson disputed a Washington Post report that said an agreement had been reached between the United States, Israel and Hamas.

Watson said, He added: “We have not reached an agreement yet, but we continue to work hard to reach an agreement.”

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