Doctors describe piles of dismembered bodies after Gaza hospital blast

‘The electricity cut… people were screaming for help’: Horrified doctors describe piles of dismembered bodies and desperate patients pleading for treatment as inferno raged after Gaza hospital blast that killed hundreds

  • Medics recalled the hellish moments after the devastating explosion on Tuesday 

Horrified doctors have described being surrounded by piles of dismembered bodies and desperate patients pleading for help in the aftermath of a devastating blast at a Gaza hospital.

Medics who were at the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza when the explosion took place say they were faced with hellish sights that included the bodies of children torn apart by the force of the impact.

One terrified woman recalled they were plunged into darkness when the electricity suddenly cut out while they could ‘feel’ the fire raging around the building while those outside could see ‘bodies everywhere’.

Palestinian health officials have claimed that more than 500 people are believed to have been killed in the blast, with Israel and Palestinian terror groups blaming each other for the horrific scenes.

Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) say the damage was from an Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) air strike, while the Jewish state claims it was caused by a misfired rocket from PIJ.

People stand around bodies of people killed in the explosion at the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital on Wednesday

Wounded Palestinians lie on the floor at Al-Shifa Hospital after being hurt in the blast at Al-Ahli Hospital

A boy walks through the destruction outside Al-Ahli Hospital as he tries to collect usable belongings from the ruined car park

Doctors stand outside al-Shifa hospital surrounded by a sea of dead children brought in from nearby al-Ahli hospital after the explosion

The hospital -which is funded by the Anglican Church – had been housing critically ill patients, as well as thousands of refugees who had moved their after their homes were damaged in Israeli air strikes.

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Dr Fadel Naim, head of orthopaedic surgery at the hospital, says he found the hospital full of dismembered bodies and wounded people after hearing a huge explosion.

The surgeon, who had just finished an operation and was about to start another when the explosion hit, said: ‘People came running into the surgery department screaming, ‘Help us, help us, there are people killed and wounded inside the hospital!”

‘The hospital was full of dead and wounded, dismembered bodies, and dead,’ he told Reuters. 

‘We tried to save whoever can be saved but the number was too big for the hospital team to be able to save… We saw them alive but we couldn’t help them and they were martyred.’

Fatima Saed, who was in the hospital when the blast occurred, says she ‘felt’ the fire.

‘We felt there was fire and things were falling on us. We started looking for each other. The electricity cut suddenly, and we couldn’t see,’ said Fatima Saed through tears.

‘I don’t know how we came out of it.’

Gaza resident Adnan al-Naqa told AFP that around 2,000 people were taking refuge at the hospital on Tuesday night at the time of the strike.

‘As I entered the hospital, I heard the explosion, I saw a massive fire,’ said Naqa.

‘The entire square was on fire, there were bodies everywhere, children, women and elderly people.’

Pictured: The burning hospital building after the strike on Tuesday night 

Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah left his family in the UK to help treat wounded Palestinians

Blood-soaked sheets are covering the victims of a violent explosion overnight

Medics heard a missile ‘screech’ just moments before it hit, killing and wounding hundreds who had sought refuge at the hospital in Gaza City.

They had hoped it would be safe because doctors were treating the sick and the wounded inside, but it became the site of one of the deadliest attacks of the conflict.

Doctors described seeing the bodies of children torn apart by the force of the explosion, and the desperate race to try to treat survivors.

A British-Palestinian surgeon, Ghassan Abu-Sittah, said he had been inside an operating theatre when the hospital was hit, and that the ceiling had collapsed around him.

The plastic surgeon from London, a volunteer with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), said there were ‘bodies everywhere’ in the hospital and its courtyard.

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Dr Abu-Sittah appeared dazed as he told journalists: ‘We heard a missile screech followed by a huge explosion. Part of the ceiling of the operating room fell.’

He described walking out into the main hospital and seeing piles of bodies, ‘both dead, not moving, and wounded’.

Some had lost arms and legs in the blast and witnesses described how doctors attempted surgery on hospital floors, sometimes without anaesthetics.

Dr Abu-Sittah said he had treated a man whose leg had been ‘blown off at the thigh’ and had then carried him to an ambulance.

He said: ‘As I was walking to the ambulance there were body parts everywhere and bodies piled up in the courtyard of the hospital.’

He added: ‘Families had sought refuge inside the hospital, thinking it would be a safe haven. It’s these very same families who are now either dead or critically wounded.’

As the surgeon spoke, men wept as they cradled the bodies of the dead, wrapped in blood-stained blankets at his feet. Others were covered by white plastic sheets.

In a chilling account of the aftermath of the attack posted on Facebook, Dr Abu-Sittah, said that he believes the current death toll will increase, ‘as I saw many dismembered bodies and parts of bodies as I carried the last patient into the ambulance past the courtyard.

‘The number of children who were killed exceeds 50 per cent. I saw a body of a toddler who was missing a head.

The doctor said he was unharmed, but condemned what he said was ‘a massacre against a hospital’.

‘Hospitals are not a target… This bloodshed must stop. Enough is enough.’

Hospital director Suhaila Tarazi said the aftermath of the blast was ‘unlike anything I have ever seen or could ever imagine’.

She said: ‘Our hospital is a place of love and reconciliation. We are all losers in this war. And it must end.’

Officials said the Baptist hospital was hit without warning, and said it had previously been hit last Friday.

In Britain, the Archbishop of Canterbury said he had previously visited the hospital and met its staff.

He said: ‘This atrocity violates the sanctity and dignity of human life. It is a violation of humanitarian law, which is clear that hospitals, doctors and patients must be protected.

‘For this reason, it’s essential that we exercise restraint in apportioning responsibility before all the facts are clear.’

Officials in Palestine said at least 471 people had been killed and over 300 wounded, some in critical condition. 

A Palestinian girl carries a blankets as she walks past the explosion site at al-Ahli hospital, in Gaza City

People react at the area of Al-Ahli hospital, where hundreds of Palestinians were killed in a blast that Israeli and Palestinian officials blamed on each other, in Gaza City, October 18, 2023

The IDF argued that an Israeli strike would’ve caused craters and considerably more damage

‘The walls stay intact. There are no craters in the parking lot. These are the characteristics that show it was not an aerial munition that hit the parking lot,’ Hagari concluded. Damaged cars are seen in this image but no evidence of major damage to the tarmac itself

‘Unlike Hamas, the IDF launched an immediate examination’ of the attack, he said, going onto explain there was no IDF fire ‘from land, sea or air that hit the hospital’, the spokesman said

Before and after images of the blast site published by Israel allegedly showed the damage could not have been caused by an Israeli airstrike 

AFP correspondents saw dozens of bodies at the scene. Medics and civilians recovered bodies wrapped in white cloth, blankets or black plastic bags.

Bloodstains and torched cars could be seen in the hospital courtyard.

Images of the hospital after the strike published by the Maxar satellite monitoring group show the hospital buildings mainly appeared to be intact.

Maxar said their images reveal ‘a probable discoloured blast area in the main parking area of the hospital compound’ with no ‘significant structural damage to the adjacent buildings’.

Israel has insisted it is not responsible for the horrifying explosion, claiming that an Islamist group based in Palestine had accidentally caused it.

The Jewish state’s adversaries – Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Hezbollah and Iran – insist the IDF was behind the devastation and vowed to take revenge.

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Speaking to media on Wednesday morning, IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari showed a series of images, satellite photos and intelligence documents he said proved the damage caused at the hospital could not possibly have come from an Israeli strike.

He explained the images showed there was no structural damage to buildings around the Al-Ahli hospital, no craters in the adjacent car park, and no debris consistent with an air strike, implying a direct hit from an Israeli missile would have caused far more destruction.

‘The walls stay intact. There are no craters in the parking lot. These are the characteristics that show it was not an aerial munition that hit the parking lot,’ he concluded.

He also pointed out images of what he claimed was shrapnel on the roof of nearby buildings, suggesting the rocket fell apart in the air and sprayed its detritus across a larger area.

Israeli officials also released a video apparently of the moment a rocket streaking towards Israel from Gaza appeared to suffer a problem and suddenly changed course.

The projectile is seen soaring through the air before jerking away from its original path. Seconds later the flames from its engines spark even brighter before flaming out completely.

In the darkness, it is not clear whether the rocket broke apart or simply lost its trajectory. But moments later, a pair of explosions erupt in the city below – the result of what Israel claims was the rocket falling back to Earth and striking the hospital in Gaza City.

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