Workers Comb Devastated Al-Shifa Hospital for Bodies

United Nations workers and Gazan health officials returned to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Monday to beginburying the unidentified remains of scores of people who died there during a 12-day Israeli raid on the complex in March.

The raid pitted Israeli soldiers against Gazan gunmen and drew international condemnation, as did an earlier incursion into the hospital by Israeli forces in November.

But the battle in March reduced what was once the Gaza Strip’s largest health care facility to ruins.On Monday it was a scene of shattered concrete, buildings stripped of their facades, overturned cars and a half-crushed ambulance. In the air hung the stench of dead bodies.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization, said on Tuesday that aid workers had found bodies covered by only rough plastic sheets or partially buried under mounds of dirt. He said they were making sure that bodies found at the hospital “were given fuller burials on site or at a nearby area.”

“When the dead are buried properly, they can be identified later with forensic examinations, giving loved ones some consolation,” Dr. Ghebreyesus said. “This war is a moral failure of humanity.”

The Israeli military returned to the hospital in March, saying remnants of Hamas’s military wing had regrouped there.Credit…Avishag Shaar-Yashuv for The New York Times

Israeli officials have said that their forces raided Al-Shifa last month because remnants of Hamas’s military wing had regrouped there after Israel’s withdrawal in January.

That reflects what some analysts have argued is a strategic failure: Israel has been unwilling to administer captured territory in Gaza, but has also been unwilling to turn it over to a non-Hamas Palestinian group. That has created the kind of power vacuum in which militant groups can thrive.

Gazan officials have said that hundreds of civilians were killed in the raid, an accusation that Israel has denied. It says the Israeli military killed about 200 fighters and captured 500 more. The New York Times has not been able to independently verify either account.

The hospital, which was the largest in Gaza, stood in ruins after a two-week raid by the Israeli military.CreditCredit…Maxar Technologies

In a video posted online by Dr. Ghebreyesus, aid workers can be seen picking through the rubble of the hospital and removing at least two bodies.

Dr. Mustasem Salah, a Gazan medical official, says in the video that identifications have been done in part by using wallets or other identifying possessions found on the bodies.

“The psychological impact of the scene on the families is unbearable,” he says. “Seeing their children as decomposing corpses, and their bodies completely torn apart, is a scene that cannot be described.”

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