WHO ‘Horrified’ as Gaza’s Largest Medical Complex, Al-Shifa Hospital Faces Repeated Attacks

Last Updated: November 12, 2023, 09:00 IST

Smoke rises as displaced Palestinians take shelter at Al Shifa hospital, amid the ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel, in Gaza City, November 8, 2023. (Reuters)

WHO loses contact with Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza amid repeated attacks. Director-General calls for immediate ceasefire and medical evacuations

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has lost contact with its focal points in Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, amid reports of the hospital facing repeated attacks. Over the past 48 hours, the largest medical complex in Gaza has been reportedly attacked multiple times. The intensive care unit suffered damage from bombardment, while areas of the hospital where displaced people were sheltering have also been damaged.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there are reports that some of those who fled the hospital have been shot at, wounded, or killed. “WHO has lost communication with its contacts in Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza. As horrifying reports of the hospital facing repeated attacks continue to emerge, we assume our contacts joined tens of thousands of displaced people and are fleeing the area,” WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean said in a statement.

In a statement posted on X, Tedros said the latest reports say the hospital was surrounded by tanks. “WHO is gravely concerned about the safety of health workers, hundreds of sick and injured patients, including babies on life support, and displaced people who remain inside the hospital,” he added. “WHO again calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza as the only way to save lives and reduce the horrific levels of suffering. WHO also calls for the sustained, orderly, unimpeded and safe medical evacuations of critically injured and sick patients. All hostages must receive appropriate medical care and be released unconditionally,” said.

This report comes as WHO has verified more than 250 attacks on hospitals, clinics, patients and ambulances in Gaza since Hamas’ incursion into Israel on Oct. 7 — as well as 25 attacks on health care in Israel. In Gaza, the “health system is on its knees” and the situation on the ground “is impossible to describe,” Tedros earlier told an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council. “As we speak, there are reports of firing outside the al-Shifa and Rantisi hospitals,” he said, adding that Palestinian health workers were still saving lives despite being “directly in the firing line.”

Last week saw attacks on five hospitals in one day in Gaza, the UN chief said, and in the past 48 hours, four hospitals with some 430 beds were put out of action. He said half of the Gaza Strip’s 36 hospitals and two-thirds of its primary health care centers are not functioning, and facilities that are functioning “are operating way beyond their capacities.”

(With agency inputs)

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