‘Unbearable’: Gaza families try to identify Al-Shifa dead


Palestinian nurse Maha Sweylem came to the gutted shell of the Al-Shifa hospital in northern Gaza hoping for yet dreading news of her husband, who she said was a doctor there.

World Health Organization teams arrived at what was Gaza’s biggest hospital Monday to help identify the bodies that litter the ruins.

The Israeli military said it battled with Palestinian militants there during two weeks of fierce fighting last month, with the WHO saying that patients were trapped inside.

Sweylem told AFP that she had not seen her husband, Abdel Aziz Kali, since he was arrested by the Israeli military during the assault. She does not know if he is dead or alive.

The nurse recalled how the Israeli army had quickly surrounded the hospital last month and then used loudspeakers to order that “everyone must surrender. Game over”.

“Then, they started shooting at all the entrances, preventing anyone from moving,” she said.

“I spent four days there with my two little daughters, without any food or drink. They cried from hunger. When they arrested my husband, he had not eaten for three days.”

AFP asked the Israeli army if they knew of Kali’s whereabouts, but there was no immediate response.

The Israeli military have long accused Hamas and Palestinian militants of using hospitals and other medical facilities as hideouts and command posts, and their patients as shields.

Motasem Salah, director of the Gaza Emergency Operations Centre, said the scenes Monday at the sprawling medical centre were “unbearable”.

“The stench of death is everywhere”, he said, as a digger went through the rubble and rescue workers pulled decomposed bodies from the sand and ruins.

Salah said Gaza lacked the forensic experts needed to help identify the dead or determine what had happened to them. So they are relying on “the expertise of the WHO and OCHA (UN humanitarian office) delegation”, he said.

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