Al-Shifa Hospital

Palestinians walk among the damaged buildings near the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Gaza on April 1, 2024.

(Photo: Dawoud Abo Alkas/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Israeli Assault Turned Gaza's al-Shifa Hospital Into 'Mass Graveyard'

"This is part of the genocidal machine," said one surgeon who volunteered at the hospital. "The genocide can only take place if the health system is destroyed."

The Israeli military withdrew from Gaza's largest medical facility on Monday after a deadly two-week assault that left the only partially functioning hospital complex in famine-stricken northern Gaza in total ruins.

Israel's military, which a United Nations expert has accused of waging an "unrelenting war" on Gaza's healthcare system, claimed in a statement that it killed 200 "terrorists" inside and around the facility and arrested more than 500 people "associated with terrorist organizations" during its prolonged raid on al-Shifa.

The military did not provide evidence that those killed were militants; Israel has repeatedly been accused of labeling unarmed civilians "terrorists."

According to eyewitness accounts of the raid, Israeli soldiers abused and executed civilians inside the al-Shifa complex, including more than a dozen children. The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said last week that its field team "received identical testimonies about the killings and executions of Palestinian children between the ages of four and 16" in and around the hospital.

Photographs taken in the aftermath of Israel's assault show al-Shifa buildings scorched, riddled with bullet holes, and reduced to rubble. The hospital's emergency, surgical, and obstetrics wards were reportedly devastated by Israeli forces, and an unknown number of bodies are believed to be trapped under building ruins.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Sunday that Israel's siege of the hospital killed at least 21 patients and left dozens of critically ill or wounded Gazans without "necessary means of care—no diapers, urine bags, water to clean wounds."

Hossam Shabat, a Palestinian journalist reporting from northern Gaza, said he witnessed "hundreds of bodies" outside of the hospital when he visited the compound on Monday.

"The bodies were in horrific conditions; many had their hands and legs tied behind their backs and were flattened by a bulldozer," Shabat wrote on social media. "Many of the bodies were burned and left to be crushed to pieces. Several bodies were decomposed and partly eaten by stray dogs. Most of the bodies were unrecognizable; families could only identify them by their clothes."

"Al-Shifa Hospital was considered the largest medical complex in the Gaza Strip, catering to many complex cases," Shabat added. "It has been completely destroyed; they burned it down and destroyed all medical equipment. Israeli occupation forces [have] one goal and it’s to destroy every inch of Gaza."

Ghassan Abu Sitta, a surgeon who volunteered at al-Shifa, told Democracy Now! in an interview on Monday that prior to Israel's assault on the hospital, al-Shifa "was 30% of the capacity of the health system in Gaza." Israel raided the facility for the first time in November, and its latest attack began on March 18.

"The destruction of Shifa, the wanton destruction of Shifa, is a critical component of Israel's plan to genocidally make sure that Gaza becomes an uninhabitable place, even after a cease-fire happens," said Abu Sitta. "By destroying Shifa and making sure it is irreparable, the Israelis are trying to make sure that for years to come, Gaza does not have a functioning health system."

Abu Sitta went on to criticize Western journalists for helping Israel perpetuate the narrative that al-Shifa was used by Hamas as a "command center" and thus an "acceptable" target.

"This is part of the genocidal machine," said Abu Sitta. "The genocide can only take place if the health system is destroyed."

Reutersdescribed al-Shifa in the aftermath of the Israeli military's two-week raid as a "wasteland of destroyed buildings" with "Palestinian bodies scattered in the dirt."

Ismail al-Thawabta, director of Gaza's media office, said in a statement Monday that Israeli forces "destroyed and burnt all buildings inside al-Shifa medical complex."

"They bulldozed the courtyards, burying dozens of bodies of martyrs in the rubble, turning the place into a mass graveyard," said al-Thawabta. "This is a crime against humanity."

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