- Recent Developments:
- Mass graves are being dug for around 100 dead bodies at the Al Shifa hospital complex
- Although Israel provides mobile incubators, there is no plan to evacuate children
Gaza/Jerusalem, Nov. 14 (Reuters) – Palestinians trapped inside Gaza’s largest hospital dug a mass grave on Tuesday to bury patients who died during an Israeli siege. archives.
Israeli forces have surrounded Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, which they say sits on top of the underground headquarters of Hamas militants.
Hamas, Gaza’s ruling Islamist group, denies the presence of militants and says 650 patients and 5,000-7,000 displaced civilians are trapped inside the hospital compound, under constant fire from snipers and drones. It says 40 patients have died in recent days, including three premature babies, after a power outage shut down incubators.
The fate of the besieged hospital has become the focus of international alarm, including from Israel’s closest ally the United States, five weeks after Israel vowed to destroy Hamas in retaliation for the militants’ cross-border attacks.
Ashraf al-Qitra, a spokesman for Gaza’s health ministry, said by phone from inside the hospital compound that about 100 bodies lay decomposing inside and there was no way to get them out.
“We plan to bury them today in a mass grave inside the Al Shifa medical complex. It will be very dangerous as we have no cover or protection from the ICRC, but we have no other options. The martyrs have started decomposing,” he told Reuters.
“The men are digging right now as we speak.”
After three deaths, 36 babies are released from the neo-natal ward. Without fuel for the generators that power the incubators, the babies were kept as warm as possible, eight to a bed in a row.
Israel announced on Tuesday that it will provide portable, battery-powered incubators so babies can be moved. But so far no arrangements have been made to carry out such an evacuation, Gitra said.
“We have no objection to transferring children to any hospital, whether in Egypt, the West Bank or the occupied (Israeli) hospitals. What we are most concerned about is the well-being and lives of those children,” he said.
“The occupation is still besieging the hospital and they are occasionally shooting in the courtyards. We still cannot move, but sometimes doctors take risks when they have to treat patients.”
Israel denies the hospital is under siege and says its forces are allowing those inside to escape. Doctors and officials inside the hospital say this is not true, and those trying to leave have been set on fire. Reuters could not independently verify the situation.
Oct. On the 7th, the militant group’s fighters vowed to destroy Hamas in its 75-year history.
But its response — including a total siege and continued bombing of the small, densely populated enclave that killed many thousands of civilians — has alarmed countries around the world. Israel blames Hamas for harming civilians because militants hide among them; Hamas has denied this.
Medical officials in Hamas-run Gaza say more than 11,000 people have died in Israeli strikes, 40 percent of them children, and countless others trapped in the rubble. Two-thirds of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been made homeless, unable to escape the overcrowded territory that is running out of food, fuel, fresh water and medical supplies.
Dr. Ahmed El Moghalladi told Reuters from Al Shifa Hospital that the main danger now is that dead bodies are decomposing inside.
“We are sure that all kinds of infections will spread from it. Today we had some rain … it was so terrible that nobody could even open a window, or walk around the corridors with such a bad smell,” he said.
“Burialing 120 bodies requires a lot of equipment, which cannot be done by hand or individual effort. It will take many hours to bury all these bodies.”
He said doctors operated without oxygen on Monday, making general anesthesia impossible.
Israeli forces launched a ground offensive on Gaza in late October, closing their encirclement around Al Shifa. The hospital siege in recent days appears to have unsettled even Israel’s closest allies.
“My hope and expectation is that there will be a less invasive operation compared to the hospitals, and we are in contact with the Israelis,” US President Joe Biden said on Monday.
“And there’s an effort to get this moratorium to deal with the release of the prisoners, and that’s being negotiated with the Qataris … in the engagement,” he added. “So I’m somewhat optimistic, but hospitals need to be protected.”
On Monday, Israel’s military released video and photos of what it said were weapons stored by Hamas in the basement of Rantisi, another hospital specializing in pediatric cancer treatment. Hamas said the images were staged.
Hamas’ armed wing says it is ready to release 70 women and children detained in Gaza in exchange for a five-day ceasefire.
Al-Qassam Brigades spokesman Abu Ubaidah said the group had offered to release 50 prisoners, bringing the total to 70, including those held by separate factions, and that Israel had asked for the release of 100.
Israel rejected the ceasefire, arguing that Hamas would reintegrate it, but saying it could agree to brief humanitarian “pauses”.
White House national security adviser Jack Sullivan told reporters that Washington would like to see “significantly longer pauses — days, not hours — behind the release of hostages.”
Reporting on Gaza by Nidal al-Mughrabi and the Reuters Bureau Writing by Peter Graff Editing by Mark Heinrich
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