'Circle of death': Dozens of bodies lie outside Al Shifa Hospital as Israeli snipers watch

People in Gaza are unable to look out of windows without getting shot at, officials tell The National

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As many as 200 bodies have been left outside an emergency ward at Gaza's Al Shifa Hospital while Israeli snipers watch the site, officials said.

Five people have been shot by the Israeli military as they tried to leave the hospital, Gaza's biggest, in the past three days, director Dr Mohammad Abu Silmeyye said.

Two were killed, he said, while the three injured managed to walk back to the hospital.

Dr Abu Silmeyye said he and other staff members, patients and at least 15,000 displaced people have been unable to leave the hospital because of the sniper threat.

“We have not been able to go to retrieve the two dead bodies” for fear of getting shot, he said.

“There are 150 more bodies right outside the emergency ward. We're unable to bring them out for burial.”

He said the smell of decay was overwhelming.

“The Israelis will kill us if they see us digging. They shoot anything that moves,” he added, as the risk of disease increases with every body.

Ministry of Health spokesman Dr Ashraf Al Qidra, who is also inside the hospital, told The National that tanks were stationed outside the hospital and people were afraid to go their windows.

“If anyone puts their head outside the window, they are shot. We are inside the circle of death,” he said by telephone as drones and explosions could be heard in the background.

“We don't have internet, otherwise we would have shown the world the horror we're seeing.”

Several parts of the hospital have been shelled, Dr Abu Silmeyye said, including the intensive care unit, the cardiology department, the maternity ward and the external inpatient clinic.

The main generator and water well have also been hit, he said.

“People are dying, and I cannot look anyone in the eye,” he said of being unable to help those who did not survive their injuries.

Patients, including newborns in incubators, have died because of power cuts and a lack of bottled oxygen.

“Thirty-two people, including babies and the injured, have died in the past three days,” Dr Al Qidra said.

He said at least 36 other babies are at grave risk because of the lack of power.

Hospital officials were working to arrange for what he estimates to be about 200 burials “in a mass grave”, he said.

“But so far, we have not had progress with mediators.”

The Israeli army did not respond to The National's request for a comment about the removal of the dead from Al Shifa Hospital. Israel says the hospital sits above an underground tunnel complex that is a headquarters for Hamas fighters – a charge which Hamas denies.

On Monday, Al Quds Hospital, run by the Palestinian Red Crescent, which went out of service a day earlier, was surrounded by Israeli military vehicles “from all sides”, the PRCS said.

“Continuous shelling sounds are heard in light of the preparations to evacuate the hospital, including the patients and wounded, their companions, and medical personnel,” it said.

The PRCS also said that a medical convoy accompanied by the International Committee of the Red Cross came under “relentless bombardment” in Tal Al Hawa.

The convoy was headed for Quds Hospital but was forced to “turn back” by the bombardment, said the PRCS.

“The medical team, patients, and their families remain besieged in the hospital with no food, water, or electricity,” it said.

In the south, the situation in Al Aqsa Hospital is barely any better.

Dr Khalil Al Dakran, the hospital's spokesman, told The National that the facility contains “four times” the number of people it has the capacity for.

“Most of the injuries are severe and need to be treated abroad. It's a medical and environmental disaster.”

He added that the hospital is sheltering thousands of people amid severe shortages in medical supplies and almost non-existent food.

“We're unable to supply food to our own patients, much less the displaced,” he told The National.

Updated: November 14, 2023, 5:37 AM