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The “unbearable” census of victims in the ruins of a hospital in Gaza

Photo: Agence France-Presse Outside the hospital, human remains are removed from the rubble by emergency teams and placed in body bags.

France Media Agency in Gaza

1:10 p.m.

  • Middle East

In the al-Chifa hospital in Gaza, transformed into a field of ruins by the fighting between Israel and Palestinian Hamas, the identification of the corpses is a new ordeal for the emergency services and the families on a site which “no longer evokes anything but death.”

“We lack the necessary equipment and time is not on our side, we must finish before the bodies decompose,” said to an Agence France-Presse correspondent on site Amjad Aliwa, director of the emergency department of the establishment.

The Israeli army withdrew on April 1 from al-Chifa, Gaza's largest hospital complex, after two weeks of operations, accusing the Islamist movement of using it as a command center.

The hospital, with a capacity of 700 beds in the heart of Gaza City, in the north of the Palestinian territory, “is nothing more than an empty shell with graves”, he said. the World Health Organization (WHO) after the withdrawal of the Israeli army.

On Monday, health personnel and civilians were still searching for remains, Agence France-Presse noted. A WHO-led mission was also on site to assist in the identification of victims.

In the images filmed by Agence France-Presse, the buildings of the complex are pulverized and charred, cluttered with rubble. Outside, human remains are removed from the rubble by response teams and placed in body bags.

“Without eating or drinking”

“According to testimonies, Israeli forces buried dozens of martyrs [victims, Editor’s note],” says Mahmud Basal, spokesperson for the civil defense department in Gaza.

Maha Sweylem, a nurse, is looking for her husband, a doctor named Abdel Aziz Kali, of whom she has not heard since his arrest within the establishment.

She describes experiencing the assault of Israeli troops “who surrounded the place in the space of one or two minutes […]”.

“Then they started shooting at all the entrances, preventing anyone from moving. I spent four days there with my two little girls, without eating or drinking. They were crying from hunger,” she remembers.

A resident of Gaza, Ghassan Riyadh Kanita, came to identify his father's corpse. “They told us that they had found the body” of this 83-year-old man, arrested at his home in the al-Chifa neighborhood and taken to the hospital courtyard, he told the Agency France-Presse.

“You can smell, the smell of death is everywhere,” says Mutasem Salah, director of the Gaza emergency operations center, referring to “unbearable” scenes.

“You see families discovering […] that certain objects, from wallets to documents, come from the bodies of their loved ones,” he describes in a video transmitted by the WHO.

The al-Chifa compound received tens of thousands of displaced people who had settled there to shelter from the fighting that has raged in the Gaza Strip since the launch of the Israeli offensive in retaliation for the attack unprecedented activity carried out by Hamas on October 7, 2023.

Smell of corpse

Several patient evacuations had taken place, but not all were able to leave the premises.

During the last assault between March 18 and early April, the Israeli army announced that it had killed more than 200 “terrorists” and found numerous weapons.

“This place, which was a place where life was given, now only evokes death,” testified Athanasios Gargavanis, a WHO surgeon present in al-Chifa on Monday, according to declarations transmitted by the organization.

“WHO staff saw numerous shallow graves and numerous partially buried corpses within the hospital grounds, which emanated a pungent odor of decomposing bodies,” the agency said in a report released Monday. Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

At the now decommissioned hospital, “most buildings, including the emergency department, surgical and maternity wards, and neonatal intensive care unit were severely damaged or burned.” , according to OCHA.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116