Gaza Lost Much More Than a Hospital When It Lost Al-Shifa


Dr. Bahzad Al Akhras | Al Jazeera - TRANSCEND Media Service

Palestinian forensic and civil defence recover human remains at the grounds of Al-Shifa hospital, Gaza’s largest hospital, which was reduced to ashes by a two-week Israeli raid.
8 Apr 2024 [AFP]

The medical complex destroyed by Israel was the beating heart of Gaza, and a symbol of our hopes for the future.

15 May 2024 – Last month, the Israeli military finally withdrew from Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital after a two-week raid, leaving behind nothing but apocalyptic scenes of death and destruction.

Grounds were littered with dead bodies. Most buildings were burned and reduced to empty shells.

What Gaza lost in al-Shifa was much more than its largest medical complex. Because Al-Shifa stood as much more than a hospital for the people of Gaza.

For members of the healthcare community, al-Shifa was home – it was where we trained, conducted research and learned. It was where we found the inspiration to become the best healers we could possibly be.

For our patients, it was a centre of hope.  They knew that they would receive the best care at al-Shifa, which was far better equipped than most other hospitals in the strip.

Furthermore, al-Shifa was a popular gathering place and a national landmark. Before the genocide, it was surrounded by restaurants, libraries and two universities, all within walking distance. It was truly the beating heart of Gaza City.

Israel reduced it to burned rubble, and the site of a massacre.

Al-Shifa offered a number of unique services that people could not get anywhere else in Gaza. It had the most brilliant doctors and advanced medical instruments such as dialysis machines for kidney patients and radiological equipment. Its expert medical teams could carry out rare surgical procedures. For many decades, it stood strong among sieges, shortages of materials, and many Israeli assaults and provided life-saving care to millions of Palestinians.

Al-Shifa was a hub of knowledge for medical professionals from outside Gaza. All medical teams visiting Gaza would make sure to visit al-Shifa to witness unique operations, learn about the latest developments in medicine and follow many studies being conducted there.

And, for us, doctors, medics and healthcare workers of Gaza, al-Shifa was a symbol of medical excellence and a source of inspiration as it was where Gaza’s best and brightest medical professionals worked and served the community.

Al-Shifa was a symbol of our hopes for the future, but also a big part of our past. Many of us had been treated there long before the start of our medical training. It was a gem that everyone in Gaza was immensely proud of. Its destruction was an indescribable loss.

“I could not hold back my tears upon witnessing the damage here,” Dr Marwan Abu Sada, a well-known surgical consultant, said following a visit to the medical complex after Israel’s assault.

“I did not shed tears for my own home being damaged, but for the destruction of the hospital, and for all the medical staff and the wounded people in Gaza,” he added.

I share his feelings of loss and devastation and I know many other healthcare workers do too.

Israel had long threatened al-Shifa, but so many of us didn’t believe, didn’t imagine destruction on the scale we eventually witnessed could happen. I cannot begin to describe the shock of seeing al-Shifa, the heart of Gaza’s healthcare system, in flames.

Israel knew that attacks on al-Shifa would violate international law and the Geneva Convention, so it lied and said there was a military “operations base” under it. After spending weeks ransacking the complex, the Israeli military failed to provide any evidence to support this claim. But it did not matter – al-Shifa was destroyed, and another aspect of this ongoing genocide was justified.

The purpose of Israel’s attack on al-Shifa was not to achieve a military advantage against its enemy, but to worsen the suffering of the Palestinian people. The attack took away from the people of Gaza their main refuge at a time when they are facing multiple threats. It displaced once again thousands of refugees taking shelter there. It left people maimed by bombs and snipers, children pulled from under the rubble, hungry infants and fragile elders without access to healthcare. The attack transformed a place of healing and safety into a site of massacres and mass graves. It made a mockery of international law and exposed Israel’s cruelty.

When Israel destroyed our homes, it was a horrific loss. But the destruction of al-Shifa was an even bigger tragedy for many of us. It was not only a personal loss, but also a collective one.

With al-Shifa gone, we are left with an incurable wound. What will we do now, what can we do, and how can we rebuild after the very heart of our society has been ripped out?

Israel destroyed all of Gaza’s universities and ensured that the majority of its hospitals were nonfunctional. It turned al-Shifa into a pile of rubble. It killed countless medics, nurses, doctors and academic clinicians. So many others had to evacuate to stay alive. Most recently, we received the tragic news of the killing of Dr Adnan al-Bursh, director of the orthopaedic department at al-Shifa, following his kidnapping and interrogation by Israeli soldiers. Those of us still in Gaza can do nothing other than sit and wait to see who will be killed next, or which vital building will be targeted. This is no life.

As we hope for Israel’s war on Gaza to come to an end, and a ceasefire agreement to be reached, we also fear what will happen next – what will life in Gaza look like after this genocide, what will it look like without al-Shifa, and can we rebuild our health sector after all the losses we experienced? We know that we cannot replace al-Shifa, at least in the short term. But we can keep alive what it represented: our hopes for a better future, and the strength and resilience of our community.


Bahzad Al Akhras is a Palestinian medical doctor and health policy researcher focused on childhood trauma and community mental health. He was awarded the Chevening Scholarship for emerging leaders in 2019-2020 to pursue a master’s degree in the UK. In 2020, he received his MSc in Child and Adolescent Mental Health with distinction from King’s College London. He aims to pursue a future career in child psychiatry.

Go to Original –

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Join the BDS-BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT, SANCTIONS campaign to protest the Israeli barbaric siege of Gaza, illegal occupation of the Palestine nation’s territory, the apartheid wall, its inhuman and degrading treatment of the Palestinian people, and the more than 7,000 Palestinian men, women, elderly and children arbitrarily locked up in Israeli prisons.

DON’T BUY PRODUCTS WHOSE BARCODE STARTS WITH 729, which indicates that it is produced in Israel. DO YOUR PART! MAKE A DIFFERENCE!


Share this article:

DISCLAIMER: The statements, views and opinions expressed in pieces republished here are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of TMS. In accordance with title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. TMS has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is TMS endorsed or sponsored by the originator. “GO TO ORIGINAL” links are provided as a convenience to our readers and allow for verification of authenticity. However, as originating pages are often updated by their originating host sites, the versions posted may not match the versions our readers view when clicking the “GO TO ORIGINAL” links. This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

There are no comments so far.

Join the discussion!

We welcome debate and dissent, but personal — ad hominem — attacks (on authors, other users or any individual), abuse and defamatory language will not be tolerated. Nor will we tolerate attempts to deliberately disrupt discussions. We aim to maintain an inviting space to focus on intelligent interactions and debates.

1 × = 1

Note: we try to save your comment in your browser when there are technical problems. Still, for long comments we recommend that you copy them somewhere else as a backup before you submit them.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.