Al-Shifa Hospital in ruins

People stand in front of a burned-out hospital building

A human rights group called the attacks on al-Shifa ”one of the largest massacres in Palestinian history.”

Khaled Daoud APA images

Israel has turned the largest medical facility in the Gaza Strip into a charred wasteland, a slaughterhouse, a cemetery.

During its two-week siege on al-Shifa Hospital, Israel destroyed “all buildings and departments without exception, in a clear crime that shames humanity,” Gaza’s government media office stated.

The army withdrew at dawn on Monday, after facing fierce battles from Palestinian resistance factions.

When the families of patients, medical staff and displaced persons – who were trapped inside the hospital and its grounds during Israel’s raid and massacre – returned to retrieve their loved ones, many found bodies in fragments, flattened under bulldozer treads.

Children’s corpses were discovered burned beyond recognition.

“Inside the complex and its surroundings, the occupation army killed more than 400 martyrs and attempted to hide its abominable crime by executing hundreds of civilians, the wounded, and the sick within the walls of the al-Shifa Medical Complex,” the media office added.

“They covered the bodies with piles of sand, bulldozed them, buried them, and mixed them with the ground of the Complex. Moreover, more than 300 prisoners were arrested, while over 100 Palestinian civilians are still missing as a result of the occupation’s shocking crime.”

Hundreds of bodies inside al-Shifa complex and in the surrounding area have been found burned and mutilated, including corpses “with their heads and limbs severed,” stated the Geneva-based Euro-Meditteranean Human Rights Monitor.

The group called Israel’s destruction and slaughter at al-Shifa “one of the largest massacres in Palestinian history.”

During the 14-day raid, Israeli forces carried out summary executions, arrests and detentions while forcing medical staff to abandon their patients.
The bodies of physicians Ahmad al-Maqadmeh, a plastic surgeon, was found alongside his mother, Dr. Yasmine al-Maqadmeh, inside al-Shifa Hospital.

According to Dr. Ahmad al-Maqadmeh’s colleague, the British Palestinian surgeon Ghassan Abu Sitta, they were shot by Israeli soldiers as they tried to flee the hospital.

More than 20 patients were found dead in their hospital beds “as a result of the Israeli siege of the complex and the deliberate deprivation” by Israeli soldiers of medical care, food and water, Euro-Med stated on Monday.

During the siege, Euro-Med added, Israeli forces “obstructed the arrival of relief teams and representatives of international organizations to the complex to carry out humanitarian missions.”

Palestinian resistance forces had engaged in fierce battles with Israeli soldiers during the raid on al-Shifa.

Executions of children

Last week, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor documented “systematic and horrifying military operations” by Israeli forces inside and around the al-Shifa complex.

Among these operations, the group explained, were at least 13 executions of Palestinian children between the ages of four and 16 years old.

“Some of the fatal shootings occurred during an Israeli army siege while the victims’ families were inside their homes; others occurred when the victims attempted to escape via routes that the Israeli army had designated as ‘safe’ after forcibly evacuating them from their homes and places of residence,” Euro-Med reported.

Islam Ali Salouha, who lives near al-Shifa, said that Israeli forces killed his two sons, nine-year-old Ali, and six-year-old Saeed, on 24 March “in front of their families and fellow locals. They specifically targeted the children, he said, with live bullets,” Euro-Med stated.

Salouha told the human rights group that Israeli forces ordered residents of the area to leave. His young sons walked just meters “before they were suddenly exposed to intense gunfire, which targeted the two children, Ali and Saeed, in particular. The children then fell in front of them, their bodies covered in blood.”

As family members “attempted to pull the two kids off the ground, he said, the Israeli forces opened fire on them again, forcing them to leave Ali and Saeed on the ground and to continue walking.”

Israel denies targeting of civilians

Israeli lawmakers and political figures have repeated claims that the hospital complex was used as a Hamas and Islamic Jihad command center.

Naftali Bennett, Israel’s former prime minister, called the destruction of al-Shifa an “amazing battlefield achievement.”

“Hamas used staff and patients as human shields in order to cause maximum civilian casualties as to create more criticism and pressure on Israel,” Bennett claimed, adding that “not one civilian was killed. Not one.”

Israel’s military chief of staff Herzl Halevi boasted on Saturday that the army’s siege of al-Shifa sends a “very, very important message here, a hospital is not a safe place.”
Last week, Francesca Albanese, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Palestine, included Israel’s crime of “medical shielding” in her report on the genocide in Gaza.

“Targeting medical facilities while accusing the enemy of shielding within them had already been employed by Israel as a strategy of ‘medical lawfare’ in previous wars,” Albanese writes in “Anatomy of a Genocide.”

“In the current assault, Israel has invoked this legal strategy to justify genocide through the complete destruction of life-sustaining infrastructure,” her report states.

On Monday, Albanese called on the International Criminal Court’s lead prosecutor, Karim Khan, to take action over Israel’s “genocidal campaign.”
“This is the greatest moment of truth in the ICC history,” Albanese stated.




Just a speculation, but didn't Hamas assassinate the IDF commander who invaded al Shifa in November, a couple of weeks ago? This destruction smacks of vengeance.

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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).