Gaza’s largest hospital said Tuesday that it’s buried more than 100 people in a mass grave as conditions there continue to rapidly deteriorate amid a dire fuel shortage and intense shelling.
“Anyone moving inside the hospital’s courtyards or around it is exposed to gunfire,” Dr. Midhat Abbas, the director of Al-Shifa Hospital, told NBC News. “We were forced to bury the martyrs inside the hospital after their bodies decomposed and there was no consent to take them out. The grave we are digging is small and cannot accommodate all the martyrs.”
Al-Shifa has been instrumental to saving the lives of injured civilians struck by Israeli airstrikes—but the hospital has been unable to operate for several days now without electricity.
At least three babies on incubators have already died, while another 36 in the neonatal unit are reportedly still alive and in desperate need of evacuation.
Civilians are avoiding the hospital’s windows out of fear they’ll be struck by sniper fire, a Doctors Without Borders official told NPR.
The United Nations has already declared that Al-Shifa, the largest of 35 hospitals on the Gaza Strip, can no longer function as a medical facility. Authorities say those inside the hospital are currently trapped, with the Israeli military carrying out operations all around it.
As of Tuesday, only one hospital was deemed operational on the strip, which is home to 2 million people.
Those grim revelations come on the heels of some Israeli lawmakers openly calling for Palestinian refugees to leave their homes and be taken in by Western countries, a prospective policy that’s been likened to ethnic cleansing.
Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s far-right finance minister, said Tuesday that the “voluntary migration” of Palestinians out of Gaza is the “right humanitarian solution” for both the enclave and the wider region. His comments backed an idea expressed in a Wall Street Journal op-ed written by two other Israeli lawmakers who called for countries to “accept limited numbers of Gazan families who have expressed a desire to relocate.”
The Journal piece published Monday was written by Danny Danon, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.N., and Ram Ben-Barak, a former deputy director of the intelligence agency Mossad. “We simply need a handful of the world’s nations to share the responsibility of hosting Gazan residents,” the piece argued. “Even if countries took in as few as 10,000 people each, it would help alleviate the crisis.” The article did not address what should happen to Gaza after the crisis had ended.
“I welcome the initiative of members of Knesset Ram Ben-Barak and Danny Danon on the voluntary immigration of Gaza Arabs to the countries of the world. This is the right humanitarian solution for the residents of Gaza and the entire region,” Smotrich wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
“A cell with a small area like the Gaza Strip, without natural resources and independent sources of livelihood, has no chance to exist independently, economically and politically, in such a high density for a long time,” he continued. “The reception of refugees by the countries of the world that really want their best interests, with the support and generous financial assistance of the international community, and within the state of Israel is the only solution that will bring to the end of the suffering and pain of Jews and Arabs alike. The State of Israel will no longer be able to put up with the existence of an independent entity in Gaza,” he added.
Mustafa Barghouti, general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, claimed Smotrich had “revealed the real policy and intentions of the Israeli government.”
“[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu himself said in the beginning of the Israeli war on Gaza that all Gazans must evict their homes,” Barghouti posted on X. “Ethnic cleansing is a war crime and it is done by bombarding unprotected civilian population.”
The op-ed and Smotrich’s comments come after the leak of an Israeli government paper that discussed a proposal of forcibly sending the Gaza Strip’s population to Egypt’s Sinai peninsula. Netanyahu’s office said the document was merely a “concept paper” discussing a hypothetical exercise. But the leak and the ongoing attacks in Gaza have fueled Palestinian fears of another “Nakba” or “catastrophe,” in which Palestinians were displaced from their homes during the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.
The situation inside Gaza remains desperate as Israel continues to carry out attacks in the besieged enclave. Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas in response to the group’s Oct. 7 terror attacks that killed 1,400 civilians and soldiers, according to Israeli figures. The local health ministry inside Hamas-controlled Gaza says over 11,000 Palestinians have been killed as a result of Israel’s strikes since it launched its war against Hamas.
Over half of Gaza’s hospitals have stopped functioning due to lack of fuel and ongoing attacks, according to the World Health Organization. People trapped in Al-Shifa, Gaza’s largest hospital, were digging the mass grave Tuesday inside the hospital’s complex amid an Israeli encirclement of the site, according to health ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra.
“It is going to be very dangerous as we don’t have any cover or protection from the ICRC, but we have no other options as the corpses of the martyrs began to decompose,” Qidra told Reuters. “The men are digging right now as we speak.”
Israel says Hamas dug an underground command headquarters beneath the hospital. Hamas denies the claims. The militant group claims that 650 patients are now trapped inside Al-Shifa along with as many as 7,000 other displaced civilians.