Opinion

The Irish News view: Gaza hospital deaths a new low in bloody conflict

As the death toll continues to rise, a ceasefire cannot be delayed

The US is ‘confident’ that Palestinian militant groups used Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital to hold ‘at least a few’ hostages seized during their bloody October 7 attack and to house command infrastructure, a declassified American intelligence assessment found (Victor R Caivano/AP)
An Israeli soldier in a tunnel found underneath Gaza's al-Shifa hospital The US is ‘confident’ that Palestinian militant groups used Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital to hold ‘at least a few’ hostages seized during their bloody October 7 attack and to house command infrastructure, a declassified American intelligence assessment found (Victor R Caivano/AP) (Victor R. Caivano/AP)

IT goes beyond the definition of a cruel irony but the ruination of Gaza’s largest hospital – the place where the injured and afflicted went to coalesce - is a new low in this continuing callous conflict.

As ever with the fog of war, there has been differing accounts but that which we know is sickening.

The Israeli military has now pulled out of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, seemingly content that its job is done with a pile of bodies and a shell of a building left behind.

The Israel Defense Force insists it has killed 200 ‘terrorists’, rounded up hundreds more and located weaponry ‘throughout the hospital’.

Alternative accounts speak of dozens of bodies, including that of a female doctor and her son, also a doctor in the hospital. Other bodies appear to have lain untouched for some time, dotted around the medical facility.

Let us not forget that is exactly what we’re talking about here: a medical facility.

The place where people at their lowest ebb go to be treated and to be made better.

Instead, they’re dodging bullets and praying they will be one of the lucky ones to avoid being wiped out by the bombs dropping from the sky.

One patient told the Reuters news agency how the Israeli troops allowed “no treatment, no medicine, nothing. And bombing for 24 hours that didn’t stop”.

At the weekend, the World Health Organisation said 21 patients had died in al-Shifa. One doctor told how 16 patients died after they were moved out of the intensive care unit and no longer could be sufficiently treated.

Let us pause and picture that scene. It’s beyond comprehension and beyond words.

Israel insists Hamas has been using the hospital as a base, accusing them of setting off explosives and burning buildings.

There can be no defence for such casual disregard for human life.

More than 6,000, mostly civilians, had been in the hospital complex at the beginning of the IDF’s raid a couple of weeks ago.

Now many, many people are dead and the hospital itself is a shell of dust and debris.

It’s worth remembering that the largest medical facility in southern Gaza, Nasser hospital, had already been out of action since the Israeli forces stormed it in February.

It is crucial that international support is now given in order for medical help to be restarted there.

The death toll from this war is soaring with every day. When hospitals are deemed fair game to hide in or blitz with bombs, surely a line has been crossed.

As Pope Francis said in his Easter Sunday Mass: “Peace is never made with weapons, but with outstretched hands and open hearts.”