Israeli forces raid Al-Shifa, Gaza’s largest hospital

Israeli occupation forces surrounded and raided Al-Shifa Hospital, currently sheltering thousands of health workers, patients, and displaced people

November 15, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Medical staff at al-Shifa Hospital move premature babies to a safer place as their department has been invaded by large numbers of lsraeli occupation soldiers. Source: Times of Gaza

This is a rapidly developing story, due to communications blackout at the hospital not all details are available yet. This report is based on on the ground sources and trusted outlets.

Israel’s ground forces stormed inside Al-Shifa, Gaza’s largest hospital on Wednesday, November 15 morning after having bombed its surroundings for weeks. Israeli tanks have reportedly surrounded the hospital compound.

Reports also claim that some of those sheltering inside the hospital were harshly interrogated and rounded up on the hospital grounds. While the official explanation provided for the operations is that the hospital is being prepared for evacuation, rights organizations have expressed concern about the possibility of more people being killed as the raid continues.

According to the reports, Israeli soldiers entered the surgical and emergency buildings of the hospital opening fire. Reports of casualties have not yet emerged – partially due to the communication black out.

Israeli forces have reportedly arrested journalists trying to cover the attack on Al-Shifa. Al-Mayadeen said Israeli forces have also cut all the communication lines to the hospital to prevent the scenes of its attacks going public.

The Al-Jazeera journalist inside Al-Shifa claimed that, “before storming the compound, they have (sic) [Israeli soldiers] targeted all the floors, the generators, the communication unit, and now we can have no contact with the outside world.”

According to reports, there were over 650 patients and over 6,000 displaced Palestinians inside the hospital when Israeli forces stormed it.

There are around 36 newborn babies in incubators who are at the risk of dying due to the failure of electricity. Since the hospital ran out of fuel during the weekend of November 12, dozens of patients, including babies, died because they could not receive the care they needed.

In addition to fearing for the remaining patients’ lives, hospital workers are also struggling with the disposal of victims’ bodies. According to testimonies from Al-Shifa management, more than a hundred deceased had to be buried in mass graves on the hospital’s grounds. The step was taken as bodies started to decompose and bombardments made it impossible to access other areas for burial.

A large number of health workers remain inside the hospital, as they decided to stay back with their patients despite Israeli threats.

Al-Jazeera’s journalist inside the hospital, reported that the Israeli forces were brutally interrogating people inside the hospital including the patients and humiliating them.

Al-Shifa had been the main source of relief for thousands of Palestinians injured in Israel’s indiscriminate bombings on Gaza. Thousands of Palestinians also took shelter in the hospital following the destruction of their homes in Israeli bombings.

Defying calls from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN, Israel had repeatedly threatened to bomb the hospital asking hundreds of patients and their relatives to move.

Most of the people inside the hospital could not be moved despite the repeated threat of Israeli attacks due to its snipers reportedly targeting people who were trying to leave in the last few days.

Some patients could not be moved as they are heavily injured and there are not enough ambulances to carry them all.

Israel has also imposed a complete blockade on the supply of fuel and medicine for over a month now which has led to the failure of most of the equipment inside the hospital due to lack of electricity.

A large number of health workers have also been killed in Israeli attacks. Three nurses were killed in an Israeli attack on the hospital last Friday.

After the Israeli attacks, Al-Shifa and Al-Quds, the second largest hospital in Gaza had decided to stop taking new patients on Monday. 

According to international law, targeting hospitals even during war situations is  considered a war crime.

Israel and its western allies such as the US have maintained that the hospital is used by Palestinian resistance movement Hamas for carrying out its attacks on Israel.

John Kirby, the White House spokesperson told reporters on Tuesday that, “We have information that confirms that Hamas is using that particular hospital for command and control node.”

However, he failed to provide any evidence to back his claims and tried to evade related questions.

The US and Israeli claims have been refuted by the hospital management and others calling it a desperate move to justify the criminal attacks.

The Ministry of Health in Gaza also denied the US and Israeli allegations and claimed that there is “nothing to be afraid of or hide” inside Al-Shifa hospital except “doctors, patients and displaced people”,  Al-Jazeera reported.