Doctor describes situation at Al-Shifa as Israel raided hospital

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A doctor in Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital said staff, patients and displaced Palestinians sheltering there were terrified as Israeli forces moved to raid the complex to root out Hamas militants they said were hiding underneath.

Dr Ahmed El Mokhallalati, a surgeon born in Ireland who trained in Cairo and practiced in London, said explosions and gunfire which he and others in the hospital had heard for more than a month suddenly stepped up early Tuesday evening.

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“The sound was really horrible,” he said by telephone.

“And then we realized that the tanks are moving around the hospital. One of the big tanks entered within the hospital from the eastern main gate, and they were, they were they just parked in the front of the hospital emergency department.”

Israel said the military had launched the raid because Hamas has a command center under the hospital and uses connected tunnels to hold hostages.

“We know this is a big lie,” Mokhallalati said.

Speaking on Wednesday morning, he said he felt relief when troops finally entered the complex even though staff did not know what would happen to them, because the fear of being bombarded from outside had been immense.

“All kinds of weapons were used around the hospital. They targeted the hospital directly. We try to avoid being near the windows,” he said, describing a large hole that had been blasted through the wall of a room in an outpatient building.

“Everyone got really, really terrified.”

Explosive sounds rang out as he spoke.

“It’s continuous shooting from the tanks,” he said.

Israel has denied targeting the hospital and said its soldiers had entered one specific location within Al-Shifa complex, with no fighting inside the facility and no friction with staff. An unnamed senior military official said they had found weapons, but provided no immediate visual evidence.

Mokhallalati said Israel had warned the administration in advance of the raid, but staff did not know how it would be carried out.

Contacted later, he said Israeli forces were moving between the buildings of the hospital, which was completely frozen.

“No one is operating, no one is seeing anyone. We are all waiting for the end point of this one, are we going to survive this moment or not. We are unable to perform anything, we are all waiting for the attack to settle down or to come to an end.”

The fate of Al-Shifa, Gaza’s biggest hospital, has become a focus of international alarm because of worsening conditions with fuel, medicine, food and water in ever shorter supply.

People began digging a mass grave inside the complex on Tuesday to bury around 100 bodies of patients that were decomposing. Three newborns died after they had to be moved from incubators to ordinary beds.

The surgeon said none of the 36 other newborns had died in the past 24 hours but patients in intensive care had.

“We are losing a lot, more and more of the ICU patients, almost five daily, because of the lack of oxygen which is very important for these patients,” he said.

Israel’s military said it had left medical supplies at the gates of the hospital and that patients could be moved out in ambulances. It was unclear if a plan had been put in place for evacuation through the battle zone outside.

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