Last week saw international media attention focus on the fate of Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital, which is the Strip’s largest, after thousands of Palestinians took shelter there. Israeli forces had stormed and took control of it while alleging the large hospital complex served as a Hamas base of operations. As of Monday a UN World Health Organization (WHO) team has reached the hospital, after Al-Shifa stopped functioning, and described a “death zone”:
WHO said that there are 24 health workers and 291 patients at the hospital, including 32 babies in critical condition, two people in intensive care without ventilation and 22 patients on dialysis whose treatment has been “severely compromised.” It noted that the hospital is no longer operating and that there have been a number of patient deaths in the last two to three days.
The WHO in a new statement described, “Lack of clean water, fuel, medicines, food and other essential aid over the last 6 weeks have caused Al-Shifa Hospital — once the largest, most advanced and best equipped referral hospital in Gaza — to essentially stop functioning as a medical facility.”
The press release continued, “The team observed that due to the security situation, it has been impossible for the staff to carry out effective waste management in the hospital.” This confirms that doctors and nurses have been working amid horrid and unsanitary conditions.
But another hospital has also now come into focus after IDF tanks surrounded it. Gaza’s Indonesian Hospital reportedly has bodies piled up outside of it, but amid heavy artillery fire the deceased can’t be recovered.
Gaza’s Health Ministry called the situation “catastrophic” as hundreds remained trapped in the hospital complex. The standoff is unfolding much like events at Al-Shifa.
“The Indonesian Hospital staff are insisting they will stay to treat the wounded. There are about 700 people, including medical staff and injured people, inside the hospital,” Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.
The Israeli army surrounded the Indonesian hospital in Jabalia, northern Gaza. pic.twitter.com/kcKsZMpSqr
— Levent Kemal (@leventkemaI) November 20, 2023
As tragic images of civilian death and suffering continue to emerge daily out of Gaza, the White House says it is edging close to a deal to secure the release of some of the hostages.
White House deputy national security adviser Jon Finer said in US media interviews Sunday that “considerably more than 12” hostages are set to be freed.
However there are still many hurdles: “What I can say at this point is that some of the outstanding areas of disagreement, in a very complicated, very sensitive negotiation, have been narrowed,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.
“I believe we are closer than we have been in quite some time, maybe closer than we have been since the beginning of this process, to getting this deal done,” he added. Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog also said that a deal is close. He told ABC News that multiple hostages could be freed by Hamas “in coming days.”
⚡️Devastating footage from inside the Indonesian hospital in Gaza during the early hours of the morning today after Israeli tanks and snipers fired onto the hospital, killing more than 12 patients so far. pic.twitter.com/oZj9GSbj1B
— War Monitor (@WarMonitors) November 20, 2023
As for Finer, he still underscored that caution is warranted: “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Sensitive negotiations like this can fall apart at the last minute.”
But it is possible and even likely that all of this progress in negotiations could be jeopardized if Israel expands its offensive to the south, as the IDF has been warning in the past days. Israel says it is racing to recover more of the some 230 hostages kidnapped by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).