Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Al-Shifa hospital an ‘empty shell,’ WHO says as Biden pushes for Gaza deal

By Ellen Francis,Bryan Pietsch,Alon Rom and Frances Vinall Washington post

Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital is “an empty shell with human graves” and “completely non-functional,” the World Health Organization said Saturday, after a weekslong siege by Israeli forces decimated what was left of the territory’s largest medical facility.

A WHO team visited the hospital grounds in Gaza City on Friday to assess the damage, the agency said in a statement, and determine whether basic services could be restored. What they found was a sprawling complex of charred and destroyed buildings, hastily dug shallow graves and equipment “reduced to ashes.”

“The scale of devastation has left the facility completely non-functional, further reducing access to life-saving health care in Gaza,” the WHO said.

It outlined some of the damage: burnt surgical and maternity wards; destroyed incubators; an emergency department in ruins; and the pungent smell of death.

Inside the compound, “many dead bodies were partially buried with their limbs visible,” the statement said, adding that WHO staff witnessed “at least 5 bodies lying partially covered on the ground, exposed to the heat.”

Patients were also held in “abysmal conditions during the siege,” which ended Monday, the WHO said, citing the hospital’s director. “They endured severe lack of food, water, health care, hygiene and sanitation, and were forced to relocate between buildings at gun point.”

In a post on X, WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Saturday that Al-Shifa Hospital was “once the backbone of the health system in #Gaza.”

But “even restoring minimal functionality in the short term seems implausible,” he said, adding that it was unclear “if the remaining buildings are safe for future use.”

The account of the hospital’s destruction, six months into the war, comes as cease-fire negotiations were scheduled to resume this weekend in Cairo. President Biden on Friday urged Egypt and Qatar to press Hamas to commit to a cease-fire and hostage release deal with Israel, according to a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity under terms set by the White House.

The head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, David Barnea, and the head of Israeli security agency Shin Bet, Ronen Bar, are both expected to attend the talks, as is CIA Director William J. Burns. Hamas said it would send a delegation from to Cairo on Sunday, following an invitation from Egyptian officials.

Biden warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a call on Thursday that the plight of civilians in Gaza was “unacceptable,” according to a White House summary of the call. The president also pressed Netanyahu for an “immediate cease-fire.”

Negotiations have for months focused on trying to secure a cease-fire of at least six weeks, along with the release of about half of nearly 100 hostages believed to be remaining in Gaza, in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

The Israeli military said Saturday that overnight, its forces in Khan Younis in Gaza had recovered the body of an Israeli hostage, Elad Katzir, who it said was killed in captivity by militants. Katzir was taken hostage in the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack, in which his father was killed, and his mother was released in November during a pause in fighting under a deal between Hamas and Israel.

In a scathing post on social media, Katzir’s sister Karmit Palti Katzir said having a grave for him would bring an end to the uncertainty, but accused Israeli leaders including the military of abandoning hostages in Gaza, and having “no clue” where most are being held or “how to keep them safe.”

She said her brother had been filmed twice in captivity by militants. “It was possible to save him if a deal would’ve happened on time. Our leadership are cowards and are motivated by political interests and that’s why a deal didn’t happen,” she wrote. “Look at yourself in the mirror and tell us that your hands didn’t spill this blood.”

- – -

Here’s what else to know

- The Israeli military dismissed two officers and reprimanded three commanders over the attack Monday that killed seven World Central Kitchen workers. The nonprofit, however, said that Israel’s military “cannot credibly investigate its own failure,” and called for an independent review.

- Almost one-third of children under the age of 2 in northern Gaza are suffering from “severe wasting,” the most lethal form of malnutrition, the U.N. humanitarian affairs office said. At least 28 children have died of lack of food and water, the U.N. office said, citing the Gaza Health Ministry, and more than 50,000 children under the age of 5 are acutely malnourished.

- Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the “real test is results” after Israel said it would open more aid routes into Gaza. E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the measures announced by Israel were “not enough to prevent starvation” in the Palestinian enclave.

- Iran pledged “revenge” for an Israeli strike in Damascus that killed two senior Iranian commanders this week, and stoked fears of widening war in the region. Iran’s armed forces chief, Maj. General Mohammad Bagheri, said Saturday that Iran would retaliate “at the right time and with maximum damage.”

- The IDF said one of its military helicopters mistakenly killed a hostage on Oct. 7 when it fired at a vehicle carrying Hamas militants and hostages. It said the commander of the air force “did not find fault in the operation by the helicopter crew” following an investigation.

- At least 33,137 people have been killed and 75,815 injured in Gaza since the war began, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants and says the majority of the dead are women and children. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, including more than 300 soldiers, and says 256 soldiers have been killed since the start of its military operation in Gaza.

- – -

Karen DeYoung, Victoria Bisset, Mohamad El Chamaa and Michael Miller contributed to this report.


Video Embed Code

Video: Secretary of State Antony Blinken on April 4 said that he is ‘outraged’ by the Israeli strikes on World Central Kitchen workers.© 2024 , The Washington Post

Embed code: {iframe src=”” frameborder=”0” width=”480” height=”290”}{/iframe}