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What Happened at Al-Shifa Hospital? Recovering Bodies Amidst Israeli Siege

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Image Credit: Al Jazeera

Health workers in northern Gaza have begun the grim task of exhuming bodies from mass graves in and around Al-Shifa Hospital following Israel’s recent siege of the complex, which lasted two weeks.

According to Gaza Civil Defense spokesperson Mahmoud Basal, at least 381 bodies have been recovered from the vicinity of the hospital since Israeli forces withdrew on April 1. This figure does not include individuals buried within the hospital grounds.

Many of the remains discovered were in advanced stages of decomposition, some buried or found above ground, as officials revealed to CNN on Monday. Tragically, others had been crushed to death by Israeli tanks, rendering them unrecognizable and impossible to identify, Basal added.

Eyewitnesses and civilians trapped within the hospital during the raid described a haunting scene. Basal noted that the area “was full of bodies,” with Israeli forces allegedly plowing and burying them in the ground.

Dr. Ahmad Alaiwa, from Al-Shifa Hospital, explained the mission to recover the bodies buried under mounds of sand left by the Israeli occupation forces.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, condemned the militarization of hospitals, emphasizing that “hospitals should never be militarized” in a video message shared on social media.

Humanitarian efforts faced challenges as Israeli authorities repeatedly denied access to the hospital complex. However, staff from WHO and the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) finally reached Al-Shifa Hospital earlier this month, as reported by the UN.

Jonathan Whittall, a senior humanitarian affairs officer for OCHA, described the hospital as “literally a graveyard,” highlighting the bodies still present within the courtyard.

In response to CNN’s inquiry, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed operations against alleged terrorist operatives and infrastructure at Al-Shifa Hospital. The IDF stated that around 500 suspects affiliated with terrorist organizations were apprehended, and approximately 200 terrorists were eliminated during the operation.

Israel justified its actions by claiming that the hospital was being used by terrorist organizations as a command center and military headquarters.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant declared the elimination of the “terrorist base” in Al-Shifa, following the IDF’s withdrawal on April 1.

The ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza has resulted in devastating casualties, with the Ministry of Health in Gaza reporting thousands of deaths and injuries from Israeli attacks.

Motasem Salah, an official from the Ministry of Health, described the overwhelming challenges facing Gaza’s medical system following the bombardment, stressing the urgent need for international support.

Allegations of war crimes have emerged, with UN experts accusing Israel of denying access to healthcare to those most in need. The situation has been described as a “genocide” by victims, highlighting the grave impact on Gaza’s hospitals and civilian population.

Targeting hospitals during wartime is prohibited under international law, unless the facilities are being used for military purposes by enemy combatants.

The recovery efforts at Al-Shifa Hospital underscore the profound humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the urgent need for international intervention to address the escalating conflict and its devastating consequences for civilians.

As reported by CNN in their recent article  

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