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‘Nearly a cemetery’: WHO says Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital unable to bury dead bodies

Gaza's health ministry says large numbers of bodies are piling up outside Al-Shifa hospital, which is Gaza’s biggest medical center. (Via Getty)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that al-Shifa Hospital is “nearly a cemetery” and unable to bury dead bodies as the facility is also tackling power cuts and a lack of fuel amid ongoing Israeli onslaught.

Christian Lindmeier, a spokesman for the WHO, said more than 600 patients were trapped in al-Shifa Hospital, the largest medical complex and central hospital located in the northern Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City, with others sheltering in hallways.

“Around the hospital, there are dead bodies which cannot be taken care of or not even be buried or taken away to any sort of morgue. The hospital is not working at all anymore as it should. It’s nearly a cemetery,” he said.

The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza also says there are at least 2,300 people still inside the hospital – up to 650 patients, 200 to 500 staff, and around 1,500 people seeking shelter.

Dr. Mohamed Abu Selmia, director of al-Shifa Hospital, says 179 people have been buried in a “mass grave” in the complex.

“We were forced to bury them in a mass grave,” said Abu Selmia, adding that seven babies and 29 intensive care patients are among those buried.

Earlier, he said there were about 150 bodies decomposing, “leaving unpleasant odors,” at the hospital as Israeli authorities had still not granted permission for those bodies to leave the facility to be buried.

Gaza’s Health Ministry official Munir al-Bursh, sobbing uncontrollably, also announced on Monday that stray dogs were eating the bodies of civilians in the yard of the besieged al-Shifa Hospital, as no one was able to bury the dead amid the bombardment.

“We have no generators as those need fuel to run. There is no food, no water, no electricity, and no fuel in Shifa and we are here dealing with casualties,” al-Bursh said.

Several reports have also said that the fighting has trapped patients and medics in Gaza’s largest hospital.

Another doctor at the al-Shifa warned that premature babies are at risk of imminent death after fuel ran out in the facility, with several infants already dying due to lack of power.

“Unfortunately, this situation means that we are waiting for them to die one by one,” Ahmad Mukhallati, the head of the plastic surgery department at the hospital, stated, adding that five premature babies had already died in recent days.

'food and fuel running out'

Mukhallati highlighted that there was no water or electricity at al-Shifa Hospital, and food and fuel had almost run out. 

He went on to call for the “massacre” to be stopped and for a “safe, guaranteed corridor” to allow patients to be evacuated from the facility.

“We’ve got only one socket where we put on the anesthesia machine. We don’t do anything except for life-saving procedures now,” Mukhallati pointed out.

The doctor added that the incubator machines, which “mimic the situation within the uterus,” require high levels of electricity.

“[The babies] have to be fully isolated from the surrounding areas so they don’t get any infection as their immunity is not mature yet,” he said.

A surgeon representing Doctors Without Borders (MSF) at the hospital echoed the same concerns.

“The situation is very bad, it is inhuman. It’s a closed area, no one knows about us,” he said in a voice note on Monday. 

“We don’t have electricity. There’s no water in the hospital. There’s no food. People will die in a few hours without functioning ventilators.”

The Israeli regime claims that Hamas resistance fighters are operating a command-and-control center in tunnels underneath the hospital, what Hamas has dismissed on several occasions.

In a statement last week, the resistance movement asked UN officials to visit medical facilities to disprove Israel’s claims. Doctors inside the hospital also say there is no Hamas presence there.

'Disaster Gaza hospitals'

The Palestinian Authority Minister of Health Mai Al-Kaila also said in a statement on Sunday that a “disaster” is taking place in the hospitals in the besieged enclave.

“There is a disaster happening in [Gaza] hospitals where patients are now dying without receiving their treatments, such as children and adult dialysis patients who die in their homes without receiving dialysis sessions,” the statement said.

“All 3,000 oncology patients who were being treated in Al-Rantisi and Al-Turki Hospital are now being left to die after the [Israeli] occupation expelled them from the hospitals,” the statement added.

It also warned that all pregnant women, including those with high-risk pregnancies, cannot find any medical services.

It went on to add that blood stock inside hospitals had been spoiled due to cuts in electricity, and medical teams could no longer give blood to the sick and wounded who were bleeding.

“The medical staff inside Al-Shifa Hospital cannot move between the medical complex’s departments and buildings, as an Israeli drone fires at everyone who moves inside the complex,” it noted.

Israel has launched relentless air and ground attacks on the coastal enclave, including hospitals, residences, and houses of worship, since Palestinian resistance movements launched their surprise attack, dubbed Operation Al-Aqsa Storm, against the regime on October 7.

At least 11,360 Palestinians have been killed, including 4,609 children and 3,100 women. More than 28,000 individuals have sustained injuries as well.

According to the Ministry of Health, 3,250 citizens are still missing or under the rubble, including 1,700 children.

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