- Al Shifa lacks electricity, water and equipment
- Hospital staff are doing everything they can to save lives – WHO
GENEVA, Nov 14 (Reuters) – The World Health Organization (WHO) praised staff at Gaza’s Al Shifa hospital on Tuesday for doing “everything they can” to treat patients despite being surrounded by forces of Israel trying to destroy Hamas.
The hospital has stopped functioning normally since Israel began its offensive on Gaza following a deadly attack by Hamas in southern Israel on October 7, and lacks electricity, water and basic equipment.
Israel says the hospital sits atop an underground headquarters for Hamas fighters. The militant group denied this.
“We know that there is not enough food, that the staff are struggling to get any clean water because their water tanks are broken, but they are still doing everything they can to continue providing medical care for the sick patients they have,” WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told Geneva.
“We still describe Al Shifa as a functioning hospital because of the heroic efforts made by the staff.”
Harris said that Al Shifa currently has 700 patients, more than 400 health staff and nearly 3,000 people who have been displaced. He said 20 inpatient deaths have been reported in the last 48 hours although the situation could be worse.
“Everybody in that hospital is in a really, really bad situation,” he said. “We, as a world, must find a way to help them. The best way is to stop fighting now. Focus on saving lives, not taking lives.”
People at the hospital plan to start burying bodies inside the facility’s compound, two hospital sources said, because of a severe sanitary crisis.
“Somehow the understanding that a hospital should be a safe haven, a place where people come to be healed, to be treated when they’re in trouble, when they’re in need, it’s been forgotten,” Harris said.
“There seems to be a tendency to make these places of death, despair and danger, which should never happen.”
Israel said Hamas militants killed more than 1,200 people and took about 240 back to Gaza as hostages in the October 7 attack. Medical officials in Hamas-run Gaza say more than 11,000 people have died in Israeli strikes since then.
Israel, which ordered a cease-fire it said would enable Hamas to regroup, denied Al Shifa was under siege and said its forces were allowing routes for those inside to get out.
Doctors and officials inside the hospital said it was not true and those who tried to leave were set on fire. Reuters could not independently verify the situation.