Harrowing Stories from Shifa Hospital: British-Palestinian Doctor Describes Horrifying Conditions

HARDLY AFFECTED: Three injured Palestinian children and an adult man are in the Shifa hospital on 23 October. Photo: Yasser Qudih / AP / NTB

Almost half of the injured were children. Staff searched for dead family members in the emergency department. This is how the British-Palestinian doctor describes everyday life at the Shifa hospital.


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Ghassan Abu Sitta, a British-Palestinian doctor, claims that between 40 and 45 percent of the injured at the Shifa hospital were children. Abu Sitta worked for Doctors Without Borders at the Shifa hospital and estimates that there are now approximately 900 children with amputated limbs in Gaza. Israel claims that Hamas uses the Shifa hospital as a military headquarters and claims to have found military equipment there. Abu Sitta describes that many children had no surviving family members and some were too young to be able to convey their names. The doctor also says that he treated patients with injuries caused by white phosphorus. Show more

On Monday, doctor Ghassan Abu Sitta met the press in London after working for MSF in Gaza since the war broke out.

– During the period I was at the Shifa hospital, it became clear that between 40 and 45 percent of the injured were children, said the doctor during the press conference, which included British Sky News broadcast live.

– The main target of the bombing was people’s homes, says the doctor.

He explains this by the fact that the hospital was constantly receiving pools of patients who were family members and had lived together in homes that were attacked.

On X/Twitter, the doctor has posted pictures from his time at Shifa. On November 13, he posted this picture with the text: “Still going strong”. Abu Sitta is the bespectacled doctor.

Searching for dead family members

Half of the doctor’s around twelve daily operations were performed on children, he says.

– My estimate is that there are now around 900 children with amputated limbs in Gaza, some of whom have had several limbs amputated. One night I performed amputations on six children, says the doctor.

He describes a scene from the hospital:

– One of the most terrible things I saw was when the dead and injured were transported to the Shifa hospital after an air raid. Employees at the hospital came running to the emergency department to look for family members, several times their children had been among the dead, says Abu Sitta and continues:

– The sister and children of a colleague, doctor Midhat Saidam, came to the hospital one day because they were forced to evacuate from their home. He took them to his home where his other siblings sought shelter, only a few hours later all were killed.

SEVERELY INJURED: An injured man at Shifa Hospital on November 7. Photo: DAWOOD NEMER / AFP / NTB

Israel has claimed that Hamas uses the Shifa hospital as a military headquarters and that they have tunnels under the building.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have claimed to have found military equipment inside the Shifa hospital. Hamas called the images “ridiculous”.

120 orphans

The hospital was for a period surrounded by Israeli forces. At this time, there were 120 injured children in the hospital who had no surviving family members, the doctor says:

– Some of them were too young for us to even know their names. They had been rescued from ruins and there was no one to take care of them, he says.

EVACUATED: An injured boy was evacuated from Shifas hospital on 25 November during the ceasefire. Photo: STRINGER / Reuters / NTB

After 40 days, Ghassan Abu Sitta decided to leave the hospital and head south.

– The last straw was the attack on a mosque in the Sabra neighbourhood. 60 died and several hundred injured were transported to the hospital. We had run out of anaesthetic, and the operating theaters could no longer accept patients, he says and adds:

– There was nothing more for me to do.

Phosphorus damage

The doctor says that most of the patients’ injuries were from explosions.

Eventually he also saw damage from incendiary bombs. Several patients had burns on 40 per cent of their bodies, he says.

A shell that appears to be white phosphorus from Israeli artillery explodes over Kfar Kila, a Lebanese border village with Israel, as it is seen from Marjayoun town in south Lebanon, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla) Foto: Hussein Malla / AP / NTB

When Shifa had collapsed, we also started seeing patients with phosphorus injuries, he says.

– I treated injuries caused by white phosphorus during the war in 2009, and was well aware of the characteristic burns people get from this.

The WHO called the Shifa hospital a “dead zone” and initiated an evacuation on 19 November.


Published: 28.11.23 at 11:31

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2023-11-28 10:31:18
#Shifa #doctor #Employees #searching #dead #family #members

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