- The latest developments:
- Digging mass graves for about 100 bodies inside the grounds of Al-Shifa Hospital
- There is no plan to evacuate the children, despite the Israeli offer of mobile incubators
GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Palestinians trapped inside Gaza’s largest hospital dug a mass grave on Tuesday to bury patients who died under the Israeli siege, saying there was no plan to evacuate infants despite Israel announcing an offer to send mobile children. Incubators.
Israeli forces have surrounded Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, which they say is located above an underground headquarters for Hamas militants.
Hamas, the ruling Islamist group in Gaza, denies the presence of fighters and says 650 patients and 5,000 to 7,000 other displaced civilians are trapped inside the hospital grounds, under constant fire from snipers and drones. It says 40 patients have died in recent days, including three premature babies whose incubators were locked when the power went out.
Five weeks after Israel vowed to destroy Hamas in response to a cross-border attack by militants, the fate of the besieged hospital has become a matter of international concern, including the United States, Israel’s closest ally.
Ashraf Al-Qudra, spokesman for the Ministry of Health in Gaza, said by phone from inside the hospital complex that there were about 100 decomposed bodies inside and there was no way to remove them.
“We are planning to bury them today in a mass grave inside the Shifa Medical Complex. It will be very dangerous because we do not have any cover or protection from the International Committee of the Red Cross, but we have no other options for the bodies of the dead.” He told Reuters that the martyrs began to decompose.
“Guys are digging now as we speak.”
Thirty-six babies remained from the neonatal ward after three of them died. Without fuel for the generators needed to run the incubators, the children were kept as warm as possible, with eight of them lined up on a bed.
Israel announced on Tuesday that it had offered portable, battery-powered incubators so babies could be transported. But Al-Qudra said that so far no arrangements have been made to carry out such an evacuation.
He said, “We have no objection to transferring children to any hospital in Egypt or the West Bank, or even to the (Israeli) occupation hospitals. What we care most about is the safety and lives of these children.”
“The occupation is still besieging the hospital and shooting into its courtyards from time to time. We are still unable to move, but sometimes doctors take risks when they need to care for patients.”
Israel denies that the hospital is under siege and says that its forces are allowing those inside it to leave. Medics and officials inside the hospital say this is not true and that those trying to leave have been shot. Reuters was unable to independently verify the situation.
Israel pledged to eliminate Hamas after the movement’s fighters stormed the fence surrounding the Strip and invaded Israeli towns, killing civilians on October 7. Israel says 1,200 people were killed and about 240 were dragged into Gaza hostage on the bloodiest day. From its 75-year history.
But its response, including a blanket blockade and sustained bombardment of the small, densely populated enclave that has killed several thousand civilians, has alarmed countries around the world. Israel says Hamas is responsible for harm to civilians because fighters hide among them; Hamas denies this.
Medical officials in Hamas-run Gaza say more than 11,000 people have been confirmed killed in the Israeli raids, about 40 percent of them children, and countless others trapped under the rubble. About two-thirds of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been left homeless, unable to escape the crowded area as food, fuel, fresh water and medical supplies are running out.
Surgeon Dr. Ahmed Al-Makhalati told Reuters from Al-Shifa Hospital that the main danger now is the decomposing bodies inside.
“We are sure that all kinds of infections will be transmitted from this virus. Today it rained a little… It was really terrible, no one could even open a window, or just walk in the corridors with a really bad smell.” ,” He said.
“Burying 120 bodies requires a lot of equipment, and it cannot be manual efforts or the efforts of one person. It will take hours and hours until we are able to bury all these bodies.”
He said doctors performed surgery on Monday without any oxygen, making general anesthesia impossible.
Israeli forces launched a ground attack on Gaza at the end of October, and have since closed their area around Shifa. In recent days, the encirclement of the hospital appeared to worry even Israel’s closest allies.
US President Joe Biden said on Monday, “I hope and expect that there will be less intrusive measures regarding hospitals, and we will remain in contact with the Israelis.”
He added, “There are also efforts to obtain this deadline to deal with the release of prisoners, and this is also being negotiated with the Qataris… We are involved.” “So I’m still somewhat optimistic, but hospitals must be protected.”
On Monday, the Israeli army published a video clip and pictures of what it said were weapons stored by Hamas in the basement of another hospital, Al-Rantisi, which specializes in treating children’s cancer. Hamas said the photos were fabricated.
The military wing of Hamas said it was ready to release up to 70 women and children detained in Gaza in exchange for a five-day ceasefire.
Abu Ubaida, spokesman for the Al-Qassam Brigades, said that the movement had offered to release 50 prisoners and that the total number could reach 70, including prisoners held by separate factions, while Israel requested the release of 100 prisoners.
Israel has rejected the ceasefire, saying Hamas will use it to reorganize its ranks, but says it may agree to a short-term humanitarian “truce.”
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that Washington “would like to see much longer pauses — days, not hours — in the context of hostage releases.”
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and the Reuters office). Writing by Peter Graf, editing by Mark Heinrich.
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