‘Harrowing’: WHO decries deadly strike on Gaza refugee camp

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Palestinians pull a body out of the rubble of the Al Nawasrah family building destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Maghazi refugee camp, central Gaza Strip, Monday, Dec. 25, 2023.

Palestinians pull a body out of the rubble of the Al Nawasrah family building destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Maghazi refugee camp, central Gaza Strip, Monday, Dec. 25, 2023.
| Photo Credit: AP

World Health Organization staff visited Monday a Gaza hospital receiving casualties from deadly strikes on a refugee camp, hearing distressing stories of entire families killed and seeing dying children.

“WHO’s team heard harrowing accounts shared by health workers and victims of the suffering caused by the explosions,” the UN health agency chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on X, formerly Twitter.

“One child had lost their whole family in the strike on the camp. A nurse at the hospital suffered the same loss,” he said.

The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says that at least 70 people were killed in Israeli strikes late Sunday on three houses in the Al-Maghazi refugee camp.

AFP was unable to independently verify the toll.

The Israeli military said it was “reviewing the incident” and “committed to international law including taking feasible steps to minimise harm to civilians”.

Rows of victims’ bodies, shrouded in white bags, lined the ground at Al-Aqsa hospital in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza, ahead of a mass funeral.

The Al-Aqsa hospital staff had reported receiving around 100 casualties from the blasts, Tedros said.

“The hospital is taking in far more patients than its bed capacity and staff can handle,” he said.

“Many will not survive the wait,” he warned, insisting “this latest strike on a Gazan community shows just why we need a #CeasefireNOW”.

The war broke out when Hamas fighters launched an unprecedented attack on Israel on October 7 and killed about 1,140 people, mainly civilians, and seized 250 hostages, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

Israel has responded with a relentless military campaign that has killed at least 20,670 people, mostly women and children, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

– ‘Unacceptable situation’ –

Sean Casey, a WHO Emergency Medical Teams coordinator who was on Monday’s mission to Al-Aqsa hospital, described doctors providing pain relief to a critically injured nine-year-old boy named Ahmed.

He “was being treated basically with sedation to ease his suffering as he dies”, Casey said in a video shot inside Al-Aqsa, seeming to fight back tears.

“He was crossing the street in front of the shelter where his family is staying and the building beside him blew up,” he said.

“He was hit by shrapnel, by rubble, his brain matter was exposed.

“There’s nothing anybody can do for him. Like so many cases here, there isn’t capacity to manage complex neurological cases, complex trauma cases,” he said.

WHO has warned that only nine of Gaza’s original 36 hospitals remain even partially functional.

“We as an international community should not accept that thousands upon thousands of people, children are being blown up, being killed while they’re crossing the street, while they’re sleeping in their beds,” Casey said.

“This is an unacceptable situation,” he said, demanding a ceasefire. “This has to stop.”

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