Israel’s military has brought the war to the front gates of al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s biggest hospital complex, where thousands of injured and displaced people are trapped amid ferocious bombardment.
“We are minutes away from imminent death,” Muhammad Abu Salmiya, al-Shifa Hospital’s director told Al Jazeera from inside the besieged facility on Saturday, where operations had to be suspended after it ran out of power and fuel.
Abu Salmiya said al-Shifa’s buildings are being targeted and any person moving within the hospital compound is being attacked by Israeli forces.
“One member of a medical crew who tried to reach the incubator to lend a helping hand to the babies born inside was shot and killed,” he said. “We lost a baby in the incubator, we also lost a young man in the intensive care unit.”
Gaza Deputy Health Minister Dr Youssef Abu al-Reesh, who is currently inside al-Shifa Hospital told Al Jazeera that all generators are off and all power sources are now out in the hospital.
“We have 39 newborns in the incubators, those babies are fighting against death.”
He also said snipers were stationed around the compound and people inside were unable to move around freely.
“Ferocious gunfire can be heard within the vicinity of the hospital, the intensive care unit received a mortar shell a few minutes ago … Blood is everywhere, on the floor, we cannot even clean it,” he added.
Located in the northern Rimal neighbourhood, close to the port, al-Shifa became a hospital in 1946, undergoing successive expansions. The facility has become a lifeline for people seeking urgent medical intervention.
Thousands of people who have lost their homes in Israel’s continuing bombardment are also living in the hospital corridors and courtyard.
Israel claims al-Shifa provides cover for a Hamas command centre, an accusation the hospital’s director has rejected as “utter lies”. Hamas also rejects the claims, saying the facility is sheltering more than 40,000 displaced people.
Al Jazeera’s diplomatic correspondent James Bays said that none of the doctors or staff have reported seeing Hamas members in the hospital for years.
Bays added that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, who is visiting the region, has said that even if there was such conduct by the Palestinian armed group below the hospital, Israel has an obligation to ensure that civilians are spared and the principles of human rights are respected. Failure to do so would be a contravention of the laws of war.
“So that’s the top human rights official saying that targeting a hospital is a war crime,” Bays noted.
‘We cannot bury our dead’
Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French name Medecins Sans Frontieres or MSF, supplied al-Shifa with the medicines and equipment that it still has in its stock. Early on Saturday, the NGO posted on X that it was unable to contact its staff inside the hospital and was “extremely concerned” about the patients and medics.
Fabrizio Carboni, the Red Cross’s Regional Director for Near and Middle East, said the information coming out of al-Shifa was “distressing”, adding that the thousands of people in the compound “need to be protected in line with the laws of war”.
Speaking from inside the hospital on Saturday, deputy health minister in Gaza, Monir al-Bashr, said that people were being forced to dig with their hands in order to bury bodies within the hospital compound.
“We are surrounded, we cannot bury our dead. We are going to create a mass grave within the hospital compound,” he told Al Jazeera,
“We do not have any equipment or machinery to dig the grave. We have to bury these bodies otherwise epidemics will break out. These bodies have been lying on the street for days.”
As the fighting intensifies just by the front gate of the hospital, for Abu Salmiya, the hospital’s director, the outlook is bleak.
“We are totally cut off from the whole world … We are stranded, we sent many SOS to the whole world – there has been no response, no response,” he said.