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Gaza's doctors struggle to save hospital blast survivors, perform surgery on floors without anaesthesia

Following the deadly blast at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, director Suhaila Tarazi said the aftermath of the attack was “unlike anything I have ever seen or could ever imagine.” She warned that fuel for the hospital's generators would run out within hours, forcing a complete shutdown.

Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 Gaza City Updated on: October 18, 2023 17:32 IST
Family members mourn the death of their loved ones in the Gaza hospital bombing.
Image Source : AP Family members mourn the death of their loved ones in the Gaza hospital bombing.

 Doctors in Gaza City faced with dwindling medical supplies performed surgery on hospital floors, often without anaesthesia, in a desperate bid to save badly wounded victims of a massive blast that killed civilians sheltering in a nearby hospital amid Israeli bombings and a blockade of the territory.

The Hamas militant group blamed the blast on an Israeli airstrike, while the Israeli military blamed a rocket misfired by other Palestinian militants. At least 500 people were killed, the Hamas-run Health Ministry said.

Rage at the hospital carnage spread through the Middle East as US President Joe Biden landed in Israel in hopes of stopping the spread of the war, which started after Hamas militants attacked towns and cities across southern Israel on October 7.

Brink of collapse 

The war between Israel and Hamas was “pushing the region to the brink,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told state-run television. The Israeli military held a briefing Wednesday morning laying out its case for why it was not responsible for the explosion at the al-Ahli Hospital. It was not firing in the area, Israeli military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said. Instead, Hagari said, Israeli radar confirmed a rocket barrage fired by the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad from a nearby cemetery at that time of the blast, around 6.59 pm. Independent video showed one of the rockets in the barrage falling out of the sky, he said.

The misfired rocket hit the parking lot outside the hospital. Were it an airstrike, there would have been a crater there; instead, the fiery blast came from the misfired rocket's warhead and its unspent propellant, he said.
The Israeli military also released a recording they said was between two Hamas militants discussing the blast, during which the speakers say it was believed to be an Islamic Jihad misfire and that the shrapnel appeared to be from IJ weapons, not Israel's.

Hagari said Israel's intelligence would be shared with US and British officials. He also questioned the death toll provided by Gaza's Hamas-led Health Ministry. Since the war began, roughly 450 rockets fired at Israel by militant groups had landed in Gaza, the military said. Hamas called Tuesday's hospital blast “a horrific massacre,” saying it was caused by an Israeli strike. Islamic Jihad dismissed Israel's claims, accusing Israel of “trying hard to evade responsibility for the brutal massacre it committed.” The group pointed to Israel's order that al-Ahli be evacuated and reports of a previous strike at the hospital as proof that the hospital was an Israeli target.
It also said the scale of the explosion, the angle of the bomb's fall and the extent of the destruction all pointed to Israel.

 Gruesome scenes

The blast left gruesome scenes. Hundreds of Palestinians had taken refuge in al-Ahli and other hospitals in Gaza City, hoping they would be spared bombardment after Israel ordered all residents of the city and surrounding areas to evacuate to the southern Gaza Strip. Ghassan Abu Sitta, a plastic surgeon working at al-Ahli, said he heard a loud explosion and the ceiling of his operating room collapsed.

“The wounded started stumbling toward us,” he wrote in an account posted to Facebook. He saw hundreds of dead and severely wounded people. “I put a tourniquet on the thigh of a man who had his leg blown off and then went to tend to a man with a penetrating neck injury.” Video that The Associated Press confirmed was from the hospital showed the hospital grounds strewn with torn bodies, many of them young children, as fire engulfed the building.

The grass was strewn with blankets, school backpacks and other belongings. On Wednesday morning the blast scene was littered with charred cars and the ground was blackened by debris. Hospital director Suhaila Tarazi said the aftermath of the blast was “unlike anything I have ever seen or could ever imagine.”

“Our hospital is a place of love and reconciliation,” she said. “We are all losers in this war. And it must end.” Ambulances and private cars rushed some 350 casualties to Gaza City's main hospital, al-Shifa, which was already overwhelmed with wounded from other strikes, said its director, Mohammed Abu Selmia. Doctors there resorted to performing surgery on floors and in the halls, mostly without anaesthesia.

"We need beds, we need anaesthesia, we need everything": Gaza doctors

“We need equipment, we need medicine, we need beds, we need anaesthesia, we need everything,” Abu Selmia said. He warned that fuel for the hospital's generators would run out within hours, forcing a complete shutdown, unless supplies enter the Gaza Strip. The bloodshed unfolded as the US tried to convince Israel to allow the delivery of supplies to desperate civilians, aid groups and hospitals in the tiny Gaza Strip, which has been under a complete siege since Hamas' deadly rampage.

Hundreds of thousands of increasingly desperate people were searching for bread and water. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken secured an agreement with Netanyahu to discuss the creation of a mechanism for delivering aid to the territory's 2.3 million people.

But as of Wednesday morning, no humanitarian aid was passing through the Rafah crossing, Gaza's only connection to Egypt, where truckloads of aid have been waiting to enter. The Gaza Health Ministry said at least 3,200 people have been killed in Gaza and 11,000 wounded.

Another 1,200 people across Gaza are believed to be buried under the rubble, alive or dead, health authorities said. More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, mostly civilians who were slain in Hamas' October 7 attack.

The assault also resulted in some 200 being taken captive into Gaza. Militants in Gaza have launched rockets every day since, aiming at cities across Israel. Protests erupted across the Middle East. In Amman, a palace statement said Jordan's king condemned “the ugly massacre perpetrated by Israel against innocent civilians.”


Also Read: 'It appears 'other team' is responsible for Gaza hospital deaths,' US President Biden tells Netanyahu


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