Witnesses at Gaza's Al Shifa Hospital recount horrors of Israel's siege

Israeli troops have besieged the medical complex for days looking for militants

A Palestinian woman fleeing the Israeli raid at Al Shifa Hospital carries her triplet children as she heads south. Reuters
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Civilians besieged by Israeli forces in Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital have revealed the horrors of their experience, with injured patients denied treatment and men stripped and beaten.

Al Shifa Medical Complex, the Gaza Strip's largest hospital, is now one of the few remaining partially operational healthcare facilities in the north of the territory. It has also been housing displaced civilians.

Israeli troops entered the hospital compound in the early hours of Monday and have since been combing through the sprawling complex, which the military says is connected to a tunnel network used as a base for Hamas. The militant group and medical staff have vehemently denied the hospital is used for military purposes or to shelter fighters.

Israel faced heavy criticism in November when troops first raided the hospital. They claimed to have uncovered tunnels there, which they said had been used as command and control centres by Hamas. However, the Israeli military was accused of failing to produce evidence of any significant tunnel network under the hospital.

About 140 Palestinians have been killed since the latest operation began, according to health authorities.

“There was dense smoke rising from many buildings around Al Shifa Hospital,” a nurse who preferred not to be named for fear of Israeli reprisal told The National. "Residential buildings were ablaze, with civilians inside unable to evacuate after the Israeli army invaded and prevented rescue teams from reaching the area to extinguish the fires.

“This inevitably led to casualties and injuries in those buildings. The hospital administration tried to communicate with various international entities to lift the siege on the hospital and allow safe passage for patients and medical staff, but to no avail due to the intransigence of the Israeli forces."

Israel conducts new raid on Al Shifa Hospital

Israel conducts new raid on Al Shifa Hospital

Israeli forces demolished several buildings around the hospital complex in the western part of Gaza city and have again summoned the medical teams present for further interrogation.

On Friday, Israeli forces said they had detained "hundreds" of Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters, including a number of security officials and military commanders, during the extended raid on Gaza's main hospital.

The nurse who spoke to The National said Israeli soldiers have arrested, beaten and assaulted several men taken from the hospital.

“They forced men to strip naked, some were left in their underwear, while others were completely stripped in the freezing cold,” she added.

“The army repeatedly called for women and children to come out, then attacked them and fired into the air. After hours in the courtyard, they forced women to move towards the south and Wadi Gaza via the sea route.”

Witnesses told The National they saw Israeli soldiers conducting wide excavations in the hospital’s courtyards and shells hitting most of the hospital buildings.

“Many patients bled to death, as the Israeli army did not allow any assistance, leaving medical staff unable to provide aid due to the soldiers shooting at any moving target within the hospital corridors and buildings,” the nurse said.

Younis Al Aydi, a resident who lives near Al Shifa, said he witnessed Israeli forces preventing medical and rescue teams from reaching areas under heavy bombardment.

“We have been living through terrifying hours since the invasion, feeling that death is very close to us,” he told The National.

Nearly 32,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's war in Gaza, according to health authorities.

Updated: March 22, 2024, 12:40 PM