World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Medical Teams coordinator Sean Casey said that “100-plus patients” had been brought into Al-Aqsa Hospital on Monday in the space of 30 minutes, following reported blasts, including near Al-Maghazi refugee camp.
All of them needed urgent treatment for serious wounds, the WHO official told UN News, while “about 100” more lifeless bodies were brought into the hospital at around the same time.
Trapped under the rubble
The UN human rights office, OHCHR, also expressed deep concern on Tuesday at the ongoing “intense” bombing of central Gaza involving more than 50 strikes by the Israeli Defense Forces.
Attacks have killed more than 100 Palestinians since 24 December, OHCHR reported, adding that this was particularly concerning given that Israeli forces had “ordered residents from the south of Wadi Gaza to move to Middle Gaza and Tal al-Sultan in Rafah”.
Three refugee camps were hit, OHCHR spokesperson Seif Magango said in a statement, naming Al Bureij, Al-Nuseirat and Al-Maghazi. “Two strikes hit seven residential buildings in Al-Maghazi camp, killing an estimated 86 Palestinians and injuring many more,” he said. “An unknown number of people are still believed to be trapped under the rubble.”
In a social media post on X (formerly Twitter), WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus condemned the “carnage” caused by Israeli airstrikes in retaliation for Hamas’s 7 October terror attacks on communities in southern Israel, in which some 1,200 people were slaughtered and another 240 taken hostage.
“WHO is extremely concerned about the unbearable strain that escalating hostilities are putting on the few hospitals across Gaza that remain open – with most of the health system decimated and brought to its knees,” the WHO chief said on Monday.
In a social media post, WHO’s Mr. Casey described the situation in Al-Aqsa Hospital as a “bloodbath”. He pointed to a boy of nine, Ahmed, who lay dying on the floor of the facility after sustaining terrible blast injuries as he crossed the street near Nuseirat.
‘It’s a bloodbath’
“We’ve seen children, women, young men, old men and women, people bleeding out,” he said, noting that patients could not easily be referred elsewhere for lifesaving treatment. “There’s blood everywhere in these hospitals at the moment. We’re seeing almost only trauma cases come through the door, and at a scale that’s quite difficult to believe. It’s a bloodbath as we said before, it’s carnage.”
The development follows a joint WHO and UN aid coordination office (OCHA) Christmas Day visit to Al-Aqsa Hospital to assess needs after strikes in Gaza’s central area at the weekend.
Although Al-Aqsa Hospital has medical supplies and fuel to run generators, Mr. Casey confirmed that the facility was taking in far more patients than its bed capacity and staff could handle, meaning that many injured patients would not survive the wait for treatment.
This situation was happening up and down the Gaza Strip, the WHO official continued, speaking from the UN Joint Humanitarian Operations Centre in Rafah in the south, that also doubles as a medical facility.
Fighting all night long
“There’s nowhere actually safe in Gaza,” he continued. “Right now in Rafah outside the door of this building, 50 metres from where I am sitting right now, there’s a camp of thousands of people who have been settled here…They’re in plastic shelters, plastic sheeting shelters right outside the door. And last night, we heard fighting almost all night long with reports coming in during the day today of many, many injuries presenting to the hospitals here in the south.”
Hospital capacity in Gaza is about 20 per cent of what it was before the 7 October escalation but “almost all” hospital services have stopped functioning, the WHO officer explained. “Either because the facilities themselves have been affected, because the staff have been forced to flee, because they’ve run out of power or they’ve run out of medical supplies, or staff have not been able to access them.”
Waiting to die
Providing an update about gravely ill patients in northern Gaza who he said previously were “waiting to die” in a church in the grounds of one hospital, Mr. Casey said that many were still “sleeping on pews” on Monday. The level of destruction “is so incredible, is so significant the roads are full of rubble”, he continued, highlighting the logistical difficulties of reaching the most vulnerable.
“We still need to do more to try to move these patients, but the options are becoming more and more limited as health facilities become less accessible, as health workers themselves are displaced,” he said.
According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, around 20,000 people are believed to have been killed in the latest escalation to date.
And in a related development, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that the number of Palestinian properties demolished and related displacement in the nearby occupied West Bank have reached record levels.
Latest data from OCHA indicates that 1,094 structures have been razed so far this year with 2,127 people uprooted, a record high matched only in 2016, when more than 1,500 people were displaced.