Public health and hospitals: 6 days in Gaza

At a time when political discourse seems to be taking a turn in the context of the Palestinian genocide, as the words of Petra De Sutter, Belgium’s living Prime Minister («  It’s time to impose sanctions against Israel. The bombardments are inhuman. […] While war crimes are being committed in Gaza, Israel ignores international demand for a ceasefire « (November 8), there is reason to doubt the disinterested aim of those more accustomed to flattering in order to attract votes than to defending values. Either, behind the muted rhetoric against Israel’s actions, the carnage continues. 

The Commissioner-General of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, has called for an end to the« carnage » in the Gaza Strip. He adds, « Their fears are exacerbated when they hear an Israeli politician refer to Gazans as ‘human animals ’ — dehumanizing language I never thought I’d hear in the 21st century. « (November 9)

The lack of empathy and compassion shown by Western countries, including Israel, for the absolute tragedy that is the situation in Gaza does not plead in our favor. What, are we civilized countries? I doubt it.

Getting away from ideology and getting back to reality is our urgent priority if we are to ease the tensions that are rising in our country too. For my part, I’m trying. Here by spokespersons for the Palestinian Ministry of Health and other sources. Why don’t we listen to them this time? And even then, only a few excerpts concerning hospitals, and especially currently Al Shifa Hospital, the largest hospital complex in the Gaza Strip (to the north), which is undergoing slow agony in front of the world.

« Meanwhile, Al-Nasr Children’s Hospital is being targeted repeatedly, and the lives of children, staff and displaced people are under threat. Ambulances cannot reach Al-Nasr Children’s Hospital to evacuate the wounded due to the targeting. We call on the United Nations and the International Committee to be present at Al-Rantisi and Al-Nasr children’s hospitals, to protect them and to make room for ambulances to evacuate the wounded. […] « The Gaza City Blood Bank Association is out of action as a result of this attack. » (November 10, Ministry spokesperson)

« 38 children suffering from kidney failure are deprived of dialysis services in the only center for children in the Gaza Strip, after the specialized children’s hospital in Rantisi was shut down due to a fuel shortage […] The Israeli occupation is besieging the children’s hospitals in Al-Rantisi and Al-Nasr, closing the oxygen stations and exposing sick children to death. […] The Israeli occupation lays siege to the children’s hospitals of Al-Rantisi and Al-Nasr, closes the oxygen stations and sick children are exposed to death. (November 10) […] Death of a second child in the nursery of the Al-Shifa medical complex after the electrical generator stopped working and the complex went out of service. » […] We renew our appeal to all international institutions to go immediately to the Al-Shifa medical complex and hospitals in northern Gaza to protect the health system and enable it to carry out its purely humanitarian tasks. (November 11, Ministry spokesman)

« The second Israeli army attack of the day caused extensive damage to the intensive care unit building. […] The Ministry of Health has officially announced the death of all intensive care patients at Al-Shifa hospital due to power and oxygen failures. » (November 12, Ministry spokesperson)

A journalist from Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital: « The situation is indescribable. We are looking for a piece of bread to eat and the bodies of the martyrs scattered around the courtyards of the complex are being eaten by stray dogs without anyone being able to chase them away. » This seems to be confirmed by a spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of Health, who told Al Jazeera that stray dogs have started eating the bodies of the dead piling up in the streets. (Shocking as it may be, having worked in Africa, the problem of stray dogs in the city, often in packs, is a reality: so I think the information plausible).

The Ministry of Health declares that it is no longer able to count the number of dead and wounded, due to incessant Israeli attacks. (November 13) Indeed, the latest official figures are for November 9. A few figures have been circulating since then, but none of them seem to have been validated by the Ministry, so I won’t repeat them here.

« Medical staff at Al-Shifa Hospital have not received food or drink for 6 days. » (Ministry of Health) […] The Minister reviewed the catastrophic health situation in the Gaza Strip, and the attacks witnessed by the health system, where 23 out of 35 hospitals have completely ceased to function. (November 13)

« Living in Al Shifa Hospital is harder than death itself. There is no life, no water, no electricity. We survived on a few sacks of flour left behind by those who evacuated before us. » (November 14, patient)

« Today, the only generator at Al-Amal Hospital, affiliated to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society in Khan Yunis, stopped working. This threatens the lives of 90 patients treated at the hospital, including 25 patients in the medical rehabilitation department who are now at risk of death at any moment » (November 14, Red Crescent).

Undersecretary of the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza: « We’re trying to dig a mass grave to bury the hundreds of corpses scattered around the courtyards of Al-Shifa hospital. » A journalistic source speaks of 170 decomposing bodies already buried in the hospital’s main courtyard, which has been transformed into a mass grave. (November 14)

« The water is raining right now. » A displaced Palestinian child expresses his joy as the rainy season begins at a time when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians can’t find drinking water. (November 14) This will solve some problems, but it will also pose some formidable ones. Let’s not forget that the majority of the population are internally displaced, living in extreme poverty.

« Transfer of premature babies from the nursery department of the Al-Shifa medical complex to another location. Where electricity is available. » […] « We confirm the continuation of maternity services at the Al-Sahaba complex in Gaza. » […] « The Israeli occupation is placing everyone in the Al-Shifa medical complex in the circle of death after surrounding it from all sides and continuing violent shelling and heavy fire for two hours. » (November 14, Ministry spokesman).

(source Al Jazeera) « Last night, the occupation forces stormed the Al-Shifa medical complex after surrounding it with tanks. It had cut off fuel and electricity for days, resulting in the deaths of many intensive care patients and premature babies » (Dr. Zaqout, Director General of Gaza Strip Hospitals) […] Ahmad Mikhallalati, head of the burns unit at Al Shifa hospital: « We don’t know if the Israeli army is going to kill us or if they just want to terrorize us… Everyone who tried to leave the hospital in recent days has been shot. » Dr. Zaqout: « Last night, the occupying army entered the emergency department of the Shifa complex and is currently searching the hospital basement. Not a single bullet was fired from inside the hospital during the occupation forces’ assault on the complex. The occupation opened fire on those who left the corridor they claimed was safe to exit the Al-Shifa complex. Occupation forces stormed the surgical and emergency buildings of the Al-Shifa complex. »

Médecin sans frontière, Dr. Obeid: « A sniper wounded four patients in the hospital. One of them was wounded in the neck, a quadriplegic patient. Another was hit in the abdomen. [The medical team has agreed to leave the hospital on condition that the patients are evacuated first. We don’t want to leave them. (November 15 morning)

The Al-Shifa complex was the largest medical complex in the Gaza Strip. It comprises 3 specialized hospitals and was created in 1946 during the British Mandate. There are currently 1,500 medical staff, 650 patients and around 7,000 displaced civilians in the complex.


Today we live under a rain of declarations of aid, temporary ceasefires, humanitarian corridors, pauses, condemnations, etc., etc., etc., etc. The good conscience of our « elites » increasingly floods our mainstream channels, BUT the terrible reality of the images and testimonies shows that the horror still weighs as heavily on the daily lives of Gazans, built on terror. The mountain of our empty words is destroying the future of both Palestinians and Israelis, if not more, and in some ways our own as well. Perversity consists in making people believe that they don’t have the means to act (Michèle Syboni). The massacre must stop immediately, but for that we need political courage.

Graphs based on data published by the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health and OCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) up to November 9. I then propose a simple projection calculated on the data for the last 11 days on which the figures were provided. Let’s be clear: the producers of these figures say that it’s  » at least « , i.e. only those who could be counted.

Christophe de Brouwer

Honorary full professor and former chair of the School of Public Health at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. (November 15, 2023)

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