After a brutal two-week siege of al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, Israeli forces withdrew from the medical compound on Monday. Eyewitnesses report that Israeli troops carried out a horrific massacre of civilians in the hospital and the surrounding area.

An aerial view of damaged area around al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Gaza on April 1, 2024. (Omar El Qattaa / Anadolu via Getty Images)

For two weeks, Israeli forces and tanks besieged the al-Shifa Hospital compound in Gaza, where thousands of Palestinian civilians were taking shelter and receiving medical treatment. Advancing under relentless bombardment, Israeli forces carried out horrific acts of mass slaughter.

After two weeks of carnage, Israeli military forces and tanks withdrew from the besieged hospital compound on Monday. Over four hundred bodies have been uncovered so far, half of them children and women. Hundreds lay wounded with grotesque deformities; many others remain missing.

The hospital lay in ruins, with the main buildings reduced to burned-out husks. The Israeli army bombed and burned all buildings, including the mortuary, courtyards, and corridors. Residents described scenes of “total destruction” at the site, saying Israeli troops had “destroyed all sense of life” there. According to Ismail al-Thawabta, director of Gaza’s media office, “The occupation destroyed and burned all buildings inside al-Shifa medical complex. They bulldozed the courtyards, burying dozens of bodies of martyrs in the rubble, turning the place into a mass graveyard.”

After the raid, the hospital resembled a slaughterhouse. Hundreds of bodies lay scattered in the dirt, mutilated beyond recognition. Bodies with heads and limbs severed were discovered both inside the hospital and in the surrounding area. Surgeons had been tied up and executed. Some bodies were buried under the rubble, with body parts protruding from the ground; others had been crushed and flattened by bulldozers, their hands and legs tied behind their backs.

Footage shows medical teams collecting the remains of children whose bodies had decomposed in the ground. Families struggled to identify loved ones from their clothes. The skeletal remains of one woman were uncovered in a pile of garbage, the skull severed from the skeleton.

Unthinkable Atrocities

The massacre claimed the lives of dozens of patients who were killed in their hospital beds. Others died as a result of Israel’s deliberate deprivation of their access to food, medical care, and supplies. The World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on Sunday, “Among the patients are 4 children and 28 critical patients lacking necessary means of care — no diapers, urine bags, water to clean wounds. Many have infected wounds and are dehydrated. Since yesterday only one bottle of water remains for every 15 people.”

The Israeli army also prevented relief teams and international observers from entering the hospital to carry out humanitarian missions or evacuations. It cleared the hospital of medical personnel — either by arrest or summary execution. Many medical workers remain missing.

Over four hundred bodies have been uncovered so far, half of them children and women.

A spokesperson for the Palestinian Red Crescent Society told Al Jazeera, “The situation is dire, The medical staff, some of them were killed, others tortured, others detained, and above all, they have been besieged for two weeks without any medical supplies or even food or water.” He added: “According to eyewitness accounts and official reports, many of the civilians were executed. They were killed by the Israeli occupation forces including medical staff, doctors and nurses.”

As it besieged al-Shifa, the Israeli army forced more than twenty-five thousand Palestinian civilians to evacuate their homes in the vicinity of the hospital. Israeli tanks and bulldozers demolished and set ablaze over 1,200 houses in the area, burning alive entire families, while Israeli forces bombed unarmed civilians with chilling precision. During its operation in al-Shifa Hospital, Israeli soldiers reportedly used Palestinian civilians as human shields.

Destruction of Gaza’s Health Care Capacity

Al-Shifa Hospital is the largest medical facility in Gaza. It houses three specialized hospitals with a combined clinical capacity of eight hundred beds: the Surgery Hospital, the Internal Medicine Hospital, and the Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital. Now, it no longer exists.

The Israeli military has described the massacre as one of its most successful operations in Gaza, claiming it killed two hundred Hamas fighters inside the hospital. Meanwhile, Israel has failed to produce any evidence to justify its war crimes at al-Shifa. In fact, Israeli officials have made no secret of their genocidal campaign against Palestinians civilians. An Israeli Knesset member recently declared: “The Ramadan is the best time to kill them. They’re weak and tired.”

So far, Israel has killed over thirty-three thousand Palestinians in Gaza, most of them children; it has displaced over two million others. It has reduced whole swaths of the territory to rubble. It continues to deprive the besieged enclave of food and medicine.

This week Israel has continued to massacre civilians in Gaza, including the bombing of an aid convoy belonging to World Central Kitchen, among the largest providers of desperately needed humanitarian aid to the starving Gaza Strip. The attack killed seven aid workers.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is still enabling Israel’s war crimes by lavishing it with military aid packages and arms shipments. Shortly after the UN Security Council passed its cease-fire resolution, Joe Biden authorized an $18 billion arms transfer package to Israel, which includes dozens of F-15 aircraft and thousands more two-thousand-pound bombs, which, according to Senator Bernie Sanders, “can level entire city blocks.”

The Biden administration is complicit in Israel’s crimes: It has armed Israel to the hilt, vetoed several UN cease-fire resolutions, absolved Israel from implementing the UN Security Council cease-fire resolutions, and granted the country carte blanche to act with impunity in Gaza, in flagrant violation of international laws and humanitarian rules. And in a blatant act of collective punishment of Palestinians, the US government continues to halt aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The al-Shifa massacre is a tragic product of the United States’ unconditional support for Israel. Yesterday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) held Joe Biden accountable for Israel’s “mass slaughter at Al-Shifa Hospital.” But the horror at al-Shifa is just the latest chapter in Israel’s long genocidal campaign against Palestinians in Gaza.

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