A U.N. team enters Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital and finds a 'death zone'
TEL AVIV, Israel — Piles of medical and solid waste fill the crowded corridors of Gaza's largest hospital, according to the World Health Organization. And at least 80 bodies lie in a mass grave by the hospital's entrance.
A joint United Nations humanitarian assessment team, led by the WHO, gained the first outside access to Al-Shifa hospital Saturday and saw first hand the dire circumstances of the facility, the groups said. The team was only able to see the hospital for one hour.
In that time, they found that several patients have died in the previous two to three days due to medical services shutting down in the facility, according to the WHO. And now there are just 25 health workers for the 291 remaining patients, including 32 premature babies in "extremely critical condition."
The hospital reported they lost power after running out of fuel to run their generators earlier this week, causing the death of some patients.
U.N. representatives described the formerly advanced and best equipped referral hospital in Gaza now as a "death zone."
WHO working to guarantee safe passage of remaining patients
Al-Shifa has transformed into a focal point of Israeli military operations in recent days. As the military increases its operations in Gaza, the U.N. team is working to safely evacuate the remaining patients at the hospital.
"Over the next 24–72 hours, pending guarantees of safe passage by parties to the conflict, additional missions are being arranged to urgently transport patients from Al-Shifa to Nasser Medical Complex and European Gaza Hospital in the south of Gaza," the WHO said in a statement. "However, these hospitals are already working beyond capacity, and new referrals from Al-Shifa Hospital will further strain overburdened health staff and resources."
The Israeli military has told Palestinians in Gaza to evacuate further south along a so-called safety corridor. Evidence shows that Israeli airstrikesand artillery fire occur daily in the very areas Israel has said are "safer" for civilians. Those attacks have hit schools, residential towers and overcrowded U.N. shelters.
The IDF have claimed that Hamas turned the tunnels underneath the hospital into a command center and used patients and staff to provide cover for its militants. On Wednesday, Israel released video of weapons it said it found in one of the tunnels, but so far have not revealed proof that it was a sophisticated command center. Hamas has denied using Al-Shifa as a command center.
Earlier Saturday, the IDF issued evacuation orders to the remaining 2,500 people sheltering on Al-Shifa's hospital grounds. Those civilians, along with some patients and hospital staff, had been evacuated by the military by the time the U.N. team arrived for their visit, the WHO said.
As part of the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel by Hamas, nearly 240 people were kidnapped. Negotiations over a possible cease-fire that would allow people in Gaza to move about safely and for hostages to be handed over back to Israel is still in the works.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday said there was "no deal on the table and I can't expand beyond that."
White House National Security Council Spokesperson Adrienne Watson disputed a report by The Washington Post that said a deal between the U.S., Israel and Hamas had been reached.
Watson said, "We have not reached a deal yet, but we continue to work hard to get to a deal."
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