Health officials in Gaza unable to identify bodies of those killed during Al-Shifa Hospital siege due to advanced decomposition
04/17/2024 // Laura Harris // Views

Palestinian health officials in Gaza have started the grim task of attempting to recover and identify the bodies of the hundreds killed in Israel's two-week siege of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Unfortunately, this task is hindered by the advanced state of decomposition of the dead.

On March 18, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) began its second siege of Al-Shifa Hospital for unsubstantiated claims that "senior Hamas terrorists" were using the hospital to coordinate and facilitate terrorist activities.

The IDF reported at the time that over 800 individuals had been detained during the operation, with approximately 480 of them supposedly identified as members of Hamas or its allied militant group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad. More than 140 other alleged Hamas terrorists were also reportedly killed.

Moreover, the IDF destroyed the main surgical building of Al-Shifa Hospital on March 21, as the Israelis intensified their blockade of the hospital.

The IDF withdrew from the hospital on April 1, leaving behind devastation and despair. Since then, response teams from different Gaza ministries have been dispatched to Al-Shifa Hospital to do the unenviable task of locating, removing and identifying the deceased before laying them to rest in cemeteries.

"We are now digging up all the martyrs that were executed by the [Israeli] army. Our capacities are very limited, as we are working with just one bulldozer," said Hussein Mahassen, the ambulance director in the Gaza Strip. He confirmed that, in one mass grave, responders recovered the bodies of women and children who were tied up and handcuffed. Most of the bodies also showed signs of torture.

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"We have women and children tied and handcuffed. They will be taken out and have their relatives identify them. They will then be buried in the known cemeteries in the Gaza Strip. There are signs of torture on some of the arms and bodies we pulled out," Mahassen said. (Related: Hamas rape hoax: NYT’s Jeffrey Gettleman says it’s not his ‘role’ to provide ‘evidence’ of Hamas rapes.)

Khalil Hamada, the director general of medicine and forensics with the Palestinian Justice Ministry, spoke of the daunting task facing his team due to the condition of the remains.

"The bodies were torn apart and have decomposed, it is now very difficult to recognize them. The families are trying to identify what remains of their killed relatives," Hamada added that DNA verification is impossible because no genetic analyzers are available in Gaza and X-ray machines were destroyed during the Israeli attack on the hospital.

IDF has been attacking Al-Shifa Hospital in contravention of international law

Israel has long accused Hamas fighters of seeking refuge in civilian establishments such as mosques and hospitals. The IDF has been using this allegation as an excuse to repeatedly attack the Al-Shifa Hospital since the onset of the war.

During the two-week siege of the Al-Shifa Hospital in March, the IDF said they killed around 200 and apprehended around 500 suspects affiliated with terrorist organizations.

"The forces found large quantities of weapons, intelligence documents throughout the hospital, encountered terrorists in close-quarters battles and engaged in combat while avoiding harm to the medical staff and patients," the IDF said.

Israel's extremist Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also claimed at the time that "the terrorist base in Shifa has been eliminated."

However, the Palestinian Civil Defense reported otherwise, claiming that it has recovered the bodies of 409 civilians taken by the IDF from the hospital. Mahassen added that he estimates another 200 to 300 bodies still buried in and around the hospital grounds.

All this is despite international law placing special protections for hospitals. International law strictly prohibits the targeting of hospitals in times of war. However, these standards may be adjusted if enemy combatants exploit such facilities to launch attacks against opposing forces.

In turn, human rights groups and international lawyers have raised concerns over the lack of sufficient evidence provided by Israel to support these claims. "This criminal occupation does not care about international laws or humanity, it only cares about killing the Palestinian people," Hamada said.

Learn more about the ongoing invasion of Gaza and the genocide of the Palestinian people at

Watch this video from discussing the very costly gains Israel is making in its invasion of Gaza.

This video is from the channel The Prisoner on

More related stories:

Will Israel succeed at dismantling Hamas? Lebanon's Hamas representative says nah.

Evidence shows Hamas attack killed far fewer Israeli civilians than first believed: Most deaths were among Israeli military personnel, NOT civilians.

October 7 testimonies reveal that IDF shot up Israeli homes, "burned alive" Israeli civilians – Hamas only responsible for SOME of the civilian deaths.

Senior Hamas official Ali Baraka: Hamas began planning the attack on southern Israel two years ago.

Hamas leaders preparing for "permanent war" with Israel.

Sources include:

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