As Israeli tank fire rocked Al Ahli hospital and no more anaesthetics were available for surgery, British-Palestinian surgeon Ghassan Abu Sitta told his team they had to leave the only fully operational hospital in Gaza City.
He could do nothing for the hundreds of patients who urgently needed him.
“I have been living a nightmare — abandoning 500 injured knowing that you have nothing left to help them with, it’s the most devastating thing I ever did,” Abu Sitta told Reuters today, a day after he left the hospital and walked to Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.
He wrote on X: “Can’t do surgeries at Ahli Hosp. anymore. The hospital is now just a first aid station. Hundreds of wounded at hospital with no surgery. They will succumb to their wounds.”
Israel has ordered the entire northern half of the Gaza Strip, including Gaza City, to be evacuated as it presses its campaign to wipe out the Hamas group that governs the territory. All northern hospitals have effectively ceased functioning.
Gaza’s health ministry said that as of November 16 only nine of the enclave’s 35 hospitals were functioning even partially. It has put the confirmed Palestinian death toll at over 11,500 as of last Friday, including at least 4,700 children.
Gaza hospitals have been overwhelmed and short of supplies since Israeli forces began their campaign to wipe out Hamas following the Palestinian group’s October 7 attack on Israel, which Israel said killed about 1,200 people.
Al Ahli was overwhelmed with wounded. And we worked all night (on Wednesday),” Abu Sitta said in an online call. “And by the early morning (of Thursday)… we found out that we have no more medicine for the anaesthetic machines and we had to close the operating room.”
“Overwhelmed with wounded”
Abu Sitta said he and his team had been very busy in the past week treating patients after an Israeli air strike on a nearby mosque, and after Israeli forces encircled and then entered Gaza’s largest hospital, Al Shifa.
He said Al Ahli hospital received a message saying it was also surrounded by Israeli tanks.
Reuters could not verify the situation at and around Al Ahli. Israel’s military says Hamas has tunnels and command centres under and next to some hospitals, a claim Hamas rejects.
On the five-hour walk from Al Ahli to the refugee camp, Abu Sitta said he saw “scenes of devastation” and bodies on the street.
He said patients who needed treatment stayed at Al Ahli, and that another hospital in northern Gaza could not take them.
“Basically, there is no functioning hospital in northern Gaza now,” he said.
His immediate plan is to sleep.
“We’ve been working non-stop for the last week since Al Shifa (was encircled). I just decided that I needed to sleep, until I figure out what to do next,” he said.