WHO Deplores More Fighting At Gaza’s Shifa Hospital – UN Report Warns of ‘Imminent’ Famine
Gaza’s Al Shifa hospital during WHO visit on Friday 1 March – the hospital had only recently restored medical services.

WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus deplored renewed fighting Monday and Tuesday in and around northern Gaza’s Shifa Hospital, the largest medical compound in the besieged enclave, saying that “hospitals should never be battlegrounds.”  He also noted that the hospital, originally the largest and most advanced in Gaza, had only “recently restored minimal health services”.  That was after weeks of fierce Israeli-Hamas combat around the area, including an Israeli raid of the compound in November 2023, followed by a military blockade around northern Gaza that cut off most medical supply routes.

“Any hostilities or militarization of the facility jeopardize health services, access for ambulances, and delivery of life-saving supplies,” Tedros said in a post on X.  “Hospitals must be protected. Ceasefire!”

Israel said Monday that its military had re-entered the hospital compound in the early morning hours of Monday, in pursuit of  Hamas chief of internal security, Faiq Mabhouh, alleged to be hiding in the medical facility. Mabhouh was killed in an encounter with Israeli forces along with 20 other Hamas gunmen in the hospital, Israel said, adding that numerous weapons and envelopes of cash, ready for distribution by Hamas, had also been located on the hospital grounds.

Israel said it had also detained about 200 Palestinians that it suspected of being Hamas operatives. Among those was Al Jazeera journalist Ismail al-Ghoul – who was released about 12 hours later.

Al Jazeera said al-Ghoul was arrested Monday morning along with a number of other journalists “while covering the Israeli occupation forces’ attack on the hospital. ..  targeting of al-Ghoul is part of a series of systematic attacks on Al Jazeera by the occupation authorities” aimed to “deter them from reporting the horrific crimes committed by the occupation forces against innocent civilians in Gaza.”

Following his release Monday evening, al-Ghoul told Al Jazeera that he and other journalists detained were stripped of their clothes and forced to lie on their stomachs for hours, before being taken for interrogation. As he was waiting to be interrogated, an elderly man leaving the hospital requested help, and the journalist was allowed to accompany him out.

Eyewitness reports and TV news footage described aerial bombing of the area surrounding the hospital, as skies filled up with smoke and dozens of injured civilians lay on the ground.  People sheltering on the hospital grounds were reported to be fleeing, while Israeli soldiers continued searches of the hospital buildings Monday afternoon and evening.

In a reply to the WHO Director General, also posted on X, Israel’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva Meirav Eilon Shahar said, “We are also terribly worried @DrTedros, that Hamas once again militarizes hospitals in Gaza…Our request is simple: an immediate end to all Hamas terrorist activities in the hospital.”

IPC report: starvation in northern Gaza imminent

Meanwhile, a report by the Integrated Food Security Classification, also released Monday, warned that famine in Gaza is “imminent” as half of Gaza’s population of 2.2 million people face catastrophic food insecurity.  Around 210,000 people in north Gaza and Gaza City, or 70% of the remaining population, are already in Phase 5 of food insecurity, or a famine status, the agency said.

“The famine threshold for household acute food insecurity has already been far exceeded and, given the latest data showing a steeply increasing trend in cases of acute malnutrition, it is highly likely that the famine threshold for acute malnutrition has also been exceeded.”

The southern governorates of Deir al-Balah, Khan Younis, and Rafah, are classified in IPC Phase 4 (Emergency). “However, in a worst-case scenario, these governorates face a risk of Famine through July 2024,” IPC added.

“The hunger situation in #Gaza is devastating: famine is imminent and it could have grave immediate and long-term health consequences,” said Tedros in another X post later Monday, which was followed by WHO statement, calling for more immediate food relief, as well as the restoration of water and sanitation services.
“There was no reason for this catastrophe to happen. Before October 2023, there was enough food in Gaza to feed the population. Malnutrition was a rare occurrence. Now…over a million people are at risk unless significantly more food is allowed to enter Gaza. The only way to reverse this is through peace.”


Image Credits: WHO.

Combat the infodemic in health information and support health policy reporting from the global South. Our growing network of journalists in Africa, Asia, Geneva and New York connect the dots between regional realities and the big global debates, with evidence-based, open access news and analysis. To make a personal or organisational contribution click here on PayPal.