Stench of decomposing bodies 'everywhere': 179 bodies buried in mass grave at Al Shifa

More than 34 people have died inside the complex since fuel supplies ran out on Saturday

Orheen Al Dayah, who was injured after an Israeli strike, has her wounds stitched without anaesthesia, at Al Shifa Hospital. Reuters
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A mass grave is being prepared for 179 people, including babies, at Gaza's Al Shifa Hospital, the director of hospitals in Gaza told The National on Tuesday.

More than 34 people died inside Gaza's largest hospital after fuel supplies ran out on Saturday, Dr Mohammad Zaqout said, about 40 days since the Israeli war began, killing more than 11,200 people in Gaza.

“They began digging at around 9am, risking their lives, as the occupation forces are stationed nearby,” he said.

“They don't have any tools, like excavators to help them. They're just doing it manually. This is a big task and will take hours.”

A dual-national vascular surgeon who left Al Shifa on Tuesday told The National that the stench of decomposing bodies was “everywhere”.

The surgeon said that the sound of bombardment was continuous and the screams of terror could be heard when Israeli forces besieged the hospital. He said, he “doesn't remember the last time an ambulance entered the premises”.

“It is no longer a hospital. It's just a building.”

The doctor said he decided to leave when he realised that his presence there was futile.

“To be in a hospital that doesn't treat patients. To be a doctor who cannot help anyone. They will die no matter what we do. There's no blood, if they bled. No supplies if they needed surgery. I cannot sit and watch my patients die,” Dr Zaqout said.

“God help them all. Whoever is left.”

Three newborns at Al Shifa Hospital died after incubators stopped working.

The surgeon said the conditions under which the remaining 36 babies are being kept are “not right”.

“The doctors there are doing their best – but the babies are at risk of an infection. They weigh 1kg maybe half a kilogram.

“People are bleeding to death whether it's because they're unable to reach a hospital, or because the hospital itself cannot access any fresh blood,” he added.

About 25 of Gaza's 34 hospitals are out of service, he said.

“There are also barely any ambulances left because they're being targeted.”

The Palestinian Red Crescent said only five out of its 18-vehicle fleet of ambulances is operational.

People have been shot while attempting to flee the hospital on foot, the hospital's director previously said. Another doctor told The National that people were unable to even “look outside the window” for fear of getting shot by Israeli snipers.

The hospital's administration has been trying to find mediators to liaise with the Israelis to help remove patients from the site.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is unable to reach Gaza city, spokesman Hisham Muhanna told The National.

“We need guarantees from all sides that our teams will be safe.”

On Monday, the Palestinian Red Crescent said that a convoy, travelling with the ICRC, was targeted and had to turn back.

At Al Ahli Arab Hospital, where about 500 people were killed in an Israeli air strike on October 17, Dr Fadel Naim is one of the few doctors remaining.

It is Gaza's only complex still receiving patients. Now, Al Ahli has turned into a field hospital, with no access to blood, as the nearest blood bank remains under siege near Al Shifa.

“Currently, our policy at Al Ahli Hospital is to perform surgical procedures without anaesthesia for all injuries up to the moderate level,” Dr Naim wrote on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

“The pain experienced by the patients during the surgical interventions without anaesthesia is beyond what humanity on this earth can endure,” he wrote.

Updated: November 15, 2023, 6:13 AM