Gaza's Al Shifa Hospital will need years to rebuild after Israel's devastating raid

Aid groups say whole departments destroyed after two-week siege of enclave's largest hospital

Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza city lies in ruins after Israel's air and ground offensive. AP
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest on Israel-Gaza

Gaza's biggest hospital could take up to 20 years to rebuild fully after Israel’s fierce bombing of the complex during a two-week raid which killed more than 200 people, aid groups have told The National.

“The hospital’s main surgery building, its intensive care unit, and emergency, general surgery, and orthopaedic departments have all been destroyed,” Aseel Baidoun, Medical Aid for Palestinians (Map) Advocacy and Communication, told The National.

“This war is a war on hospitals and health care. We have 350 health workers killed, at a minimum, and 130 ambulances destroyed. Al Shifa is just the latest hospital to be attacked,” said Ms Baidoun, who estimated it could take up to 20 years to rebuild the facility fully.

“Israel is making human suffering and loss so deliberate, and using starvation as a weapon of war. We have the major hospitals out of service, leaving a population of 2.2 million people facing a plausible risk of genocide and on the brink of starvation.”

A doctor who left Al Shifa before the siege and returned to the remains of the complex told the organisation he had “never witnessed such levels of destruction”.

Israeli forces withdrew from the hospital on Monday after detaining hundreds of Palestinians and leaving a wasteland of ruined buildings in the surrounding areas.

The army said it had killed 200 Hamas “militants” and arrested 1,400 people, 900 of whom were taken for questioning.

Social media footage captured around the compound showed smoke rising from the remains of Gaza's largest hospital. The partial remains of hundreds of people were strewn across the complex.

AFP reported witnesses and doctors at the complex as saying that dozens of bodies appeared to have been crushed by Israeli tanks.

Hospital staff and authorities denied Hamas fighters were on-site but Israel claims it killed hundreds of militants who based themselves in the medical complex.

“Every attempt to evacuate patients trapped inside was also denied by the Israeli military," Ms Baidoun added.

Healthcare workers were detained and interrogated in the area of the hospital’s outpatient clinic, she said, while hospital patients were left with week-old dressings and maggot-infested wounds.

Palestinians in northern Gaza have almost nowhere to turn to for medical treatment, with only 200 hospital beds for a population of 350,000, according to Map figures.

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza, William Schomburg, told The National that civilians were yet again paying the price for violence.

“We are extremely alarmed by the aftermath of an almost two-week-long military operation conducted by the Israeli forces at the Shifa Medical Complex.

“The largest hospital in the Gaza Strip is now lost and civilians are, yet again, the ones who pay the price. The healthcare system in Gaza has been devastated, what little remains is crumbling.”

For every hospital directly affected during hostilities, thousands of patients lose access to medical care. Families, children and the elderly can simply no longer receive adequate medical treatment, he explained.

“The ICRC has repeatedly urged all parties to protect civilians and the healthcare infrastructure of Gaza,” he said. “This protection is not only a legal obligation but a moral imperative to preserve human life in these terrible times.”

The World Health Organisation on Tuesday said the raid on Al Shifa had ripped the heart out of Gaza's healthcare system.

“We've had contact with the staff,” said WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris. “The directors told us that Al Shifa Hospital is gone, it's no longer able to function in any shape or form as a hospital.

“Destroying Al Shifa means ripping the heart out of the health system.”

The WHO is set to send a mission on Tuesday to the site to see what it can do to save the lives of the remaining patients.

Updated: April 03, 2024, 2:59 AM