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WHO declares Gaza's al-Shifa hospital a 'death zone' as it uncovers mass grave at entrance

Citing the lack of clean water, fuel and medicines, the WHO said that the al-Shifa hospital could no longer admit patients and patients including 32 babies are in extremely critical condition. It reiterated its appeal for an urgent ceasefire to end the "humanitarian catastrophe" in Gaza.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Gaza Published on: November 19, 2023 13:19 IST
The Israeli military operation at al-Shifa hospital has
Image Source : AP The Israeli military operation at al-Shifa hospital has claimed over 50 lives.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared Gaza's largest hospital, al-Shifa, as a 'death zone' as it uncovered signs of shelling and a mass grave at the entrance of the hospital with more than 80 people buried.

In an official statement, the WHO said that a joint humanitarian assessment team conducted a rapid situational analysis in the hospital to assess medical priorities and establish logistics options for further missions.

"Due to time limits associated with the security situation, the team was able to spend only one hour inside the hospital, which they described as a “death zone" and the situation as “desperate.” Signs of shelling and gunfire were evident. The team saw a mass grave at the entrance of the hospital and was told more than 80 people were buried there," it said in the statement.

The WHO further said that the al-Shifa hospital has essentially stopped functioning as a medical hospital due to a lack of clean water, fuel, medicines, food, and other essential aid over the last six weeks. The investigating team further found that it was impossible for the staff to carry out effective waste management in the hospital.

"Corridors and the hospital grounds were filled with medical and solid waste, increasing the risk of infection. Patients and health staff with whom they spoke were terrified for their safety and health and pleaded for evacuation. Al-Shifa Hospital can no longer admit patients, with the injured and sick now being directed to the seriously overwhelmed and barely functioning Indonesian Hospital," further said the WHO.

32 babies in extremely critical condition

Further detailing the desperate situations in the hospital, the organisation said that several patient deaths had occurred over the previous two to three days due to the shutting down of medical services and that patients including 32 babies are in "extremely critical condition, two patients in intensive care without ventilation" and 22 dialysis patients with 'severely compromised' access to life-saving treatment.

"The vast majority of patients are victims of war trauma, including many with complex fractures and amputations, head injuries, burns, chest and abdominal trauma, and 29 patients with serious spinal injuries who are unable to move without medical assistance," the statement read.

"WHO is deeply concerned about the safety and health needs of patients, health workers and internally displaced people sheltering at the few remaining partially functional hospitals in the north, which are facing the risk of closure due to a lack of fuel, water, medical supplies, food, and the intense hostilities. Immediate efforts must be made to restore the functionality of Al-Shifa and all other hospitals to provide urgently needed health care services in Gaza," the global health body further said, reiterating an appeal for an urgent ceasefire.

Hundreds of people leave al-Shifa hospital

Meanwhile, hundreds of patients, medical staff and displaced people left Gaza's largest hospital on Saturday in the midst of a chaotic situation as the IDF expands its 'precise and targeted' military operation in al-Shifa.

“We left at gunpoint. Tanks and snipers were everywhere inside and outside," said an evacuee named Mahmoud Abu Auf to the Associated Press, adding that some men were detained by Israeli forces.

Health officials said they received an evacuation order from the military on Saturday morning, while the military said it had offered safe passage to those hoping to leave. Before the departure, several thousand people, including medical patients in serious condition, were trapped in Shifa in dire conditions.

More than two days after Israeli soldiers stormed Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza, doctors said they were amputating limbs to avoid infection and spoke of wounds festering with maggots, while Israel’s military said it was still searching for evidence to back up its allegations that Hamas used the hospital as a command centre.

Israel claimed that Hamas had a major operations command centre in and beneath the facility and used the patients to provide cover for terrorists. These claims were denied by Hamas and the hospital staff.

(with AP inputs)

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