Israel-Palestine conflict : WHO says al-Shifa hospital a 'bloodbath'

In a statement, the WHO said that "tens of thousands of displaced people are using the hospital building and grounds for shelter," and that there is "a severe shortage" of drinking water and food

"At the moment, Gaza's al-Shifa Hospital has indicated that they have only 5 or 6 doctors, 5 or 6 nurses and about 70 volunteers," says WHO coordinator (photo: DW)
"At the moment, Gaza's al-Shifa Hospital has indicated that they have only 5 or 6 doctors, 5 or 6 nurses and about 70 volunteers," says WHO coordinator (photo: DW)


WHO: Gaza's al-Shifa hospital a 'bloodbath'

The World Health Organization (WHO) has described the emergency department at the al-Shifa hospital in northern Gaza as "a bloodbath."

The UN health body said the facility, which has been devastated by Israeli bombardments, is "in need of resuscitation."

In a statement, the WHO said that "tens of thousands of displaced people are using the hospital building and grounds for shelter," and that there is "a severe shortage" of drinking water and food. 

A team from the World Health Organization and other United Nations agencies was able to deliver medical supplies Saturday, 16 December to the hospital, the largest in the Palestinian territory.

The team found that new patients were arriving in the emergency room all the time and that "patients with trauma injuries were being sutured on the floor [...and] no pain management is available."

WHO coordinator tells DW about what he saw at al-Shifa hospital

Sean Casey, an emergency medical teams coordinator for the World Health Organization (WHO) spoke to DW about the current state of hospitals and health services in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, 19 December highlighting the precarious situation facing health service providers and civilians caught up in the raging conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Asked what he had seen at Gaza's al-Shifa Hospital, Casey said: "We found a hospital that's completely overwhelmed. We saw patients coming in every 30 to 60 seconds on donkey carts, on trolleys, with very serious injuries. The hospital was previously the largest referral hospital in Gaza with 750 beds and a very busy emergency ward. At the moment, hospital leadership has indicated that they have only 5 or 6 doctors, 5 or 6 nurses and about 70 volunteers."

Asked what could be done to alleviate suffering, he replied: "Very little, but we hope to change that."

"Al-Shifa," he said, "previously had 20 operating theaters, none of them are currently working. They're running dialysis machines 24 hours a day on a backup generator. But they're not able to come close to meeting demand."

"What we're seeing in all of the hospitals in Gaza is that they're at 200, 300, even 400% of their normal capacity, and that they're running those numbers, supporting that number of patients, with 50% or 25% of their normal personnel. Huge numbers of people here have been displaced."

When DW asked how many of those injured were Hamas fighters and how many civilians, Casey replied: "I saw young and old, men and women… pregnant women. I saw, unfortunately, children receiving sutures, stitches, without any anesthetic. People wailing out in pain. So it doesn't matter who these people are, they're injured."

Casey noted that al-Shifa was so full of patients that "there was hardly any room to walk."

When asked what was currently needed, Casey said, "the optimal solution to this is peace… is a ceasefire."

Mobile and internet partially restored in Gaza, telecom firm says

Mobile and internet services are gradually being restored in central and southern areas of Gaza, the territory's main telecoms company has said.

PalTel announced the development after Gaza on Thursday experienced its sixth communications blackout since the Israel-Hamas conflict erupted on October 7.

"We would like to announce the gradual restoration of telecom services... our field teams were able to reach and repair the main damaged site after numerous attempts in the past days," PalTel said.

Netblocks, an independent internet observatory, wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that its metrics showed that internet connectivity was being restored in parts of Gaza following the three-day extended telecoms blackout.

Netblocks said the blackout was the longest since the start of the conflict and that service remains significantly below pre-conflict levels.

Israel's Kerem Shalom border with Gaza opens

The Kerem Shalom border crossing between Israel and the besieged Gaza Strip opened for aid trucks on Sunday, for the first time since the conflict erupted.

The Reuters news agency cited a spokesperson from the prime minister's office as confirming that the crossing was opened.

The Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, an Israeli unit concerned with the affairs of the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip, said in a social media statement that United Nations aid trucks will undergo security checks and be transferred directly to Gaza via the crossing as of Sunday.

The procedure comes in line with Israel's agreement with the US regarding aid to Gaza, it said.

"This will increase the daily volume of humanitarian aid entering Gaza and being delivered to the people of Gaza," COGAT added.

Previously trucks had passed through the Kerem Shalom crossing for security checks, but then still had to pass through the Rafah crossing to enter Gaza proper.

Israeli army says it found biggest Hamas tunnel yet

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said they had uncovered an unusually large concrete and iron-girded tunnel used by the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

It said the tunnel was located just 100 meters (109 yards) south of the Erez checkpoint, a border crossing between Israel and Gaza, concealed in a sand dune.

The IDF labeled the tunnel as a flagship Hamas project, designed to carry carloads of militant fighters from Gaza right up to the border.

The Israeli army said the tunnel had a depth of 50 meters, had electrical fittings, and was 3 meters (10 feet) in height and width.

It was "the biggest tunnel we found in Gaza," chief military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said. "Millions of dollars were invested in this tunnel. It took years to build this tunnel."

The Israeli army said it had found a large number of weapons stored in the tunnel, ready to be used in an attack.

Israel has begun disabling hundreds of kilometers of underground tunnels it had found in Gaza.

Earlier this month, the army said it had discovered more than 800 tunnels and destroyed 500 of them.

Israeli media reported last week that the army was planning to flood the tunnels with seawater pumped from the Mediterranean Sea.

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Published: 18 Dec 2023, 10:13 AM