Doctor describes 'smell of death' inside Gaza's besieged al-Shifa hospital amid Israeli raid

Dr Ahmed El Mokhallalati spoke to ITV News from inside the al-Shifa hospital. Credit: ITV News/AP

Warning: Some of the details in the report are distressing. Words by Liz Little, Deputy News Editor

A doctor trapped inside Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital has described the "smell of death" and "bodies piling up", as patients and staff remain trapped amid bombing from Israeli forces.

Speaking on the phone from the hospital’s main building, bombs sounded in the background as Dr Ahmed El Mokhallalati told ITV News the hospital has "totally collapsed" and is no longer functional.

His warning is stark: al-Shifa hospital is no longer a place "for a person to survive and it doesn’t meet basic humanitarian needs".

"This is a hospital, we were supposed to treat patients,“ he said. "Now we need someone to take care of us."

Dr Ahmed, a plastic surgeon who trained in London, said heavy shelling surrounding the hospital started at 11pm local time on Tuesday.

The hospital administration received a phone call two hours later, warning Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) were going to enter.

The surgeon said he later saw troops head straight to the building’s basement.

By sunrise, there was signs of bombing all around the hospital and tanks lined its entrances, making it impossible for anyone to leave the complex.

“We are not moving easily within the hospital,” Dr Ahmed said. "Whoever is in a building is totally stuck."

The outside of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. Credit: CNN

At the time of the phone call, Dr Ahmed described the scene as "more of a war zone than a hospital".

Doctors and patients are avoiding walls and windows of the buildings for fear of being caught in the gunfire.

"The continuous firing and shooting makes everything impossible," he said.

"Snipers are all over the area. There are drones who can target anyone who moves around the area. So, it's totally risky to just see or try to see what's happening."

Despite claims by Israeli and US intelligence that al-Shifa hospital is being used as a major base for Hamas operatives, Dr Ahmed said the IDF are walking around the site "without any resistance".

Israel has claimed Hamas fighters are hiding in underground tunnels beneath the hospital.

Dr Ahmed said he has never seen any sign of this, adding "I've never seen a single gun in al-Shifa hospital before."

Earlier this week, images from inside al-Shifa showed exhausted medics trying to treat premature babies who were left without any life support.

Dozens of premature babies are at risk of dying in Gaza's largest hospital as doctors describe the situation inside as 'dire and perilous'. Credit: AP

Without access to incubators, doctors had placed the tiny children side-by-side to try and keep their body temperatures from dropping.

Dr Ahmed said the lack of electricity, oxygen, food and water means "we are almost losing all of them".

The limited electricity supply is only enough to run a heater, with makeshift beds stacked around 36 babies remaining in the hospital.

"They are at very high risk of dying, of getting infection because they're not isolated as they’re supposed to be."

He estimates at least five patients from the Intensive Care Unit are dying each day.

As the attacks continue, bodies of patients have been "piling inside the hospital grounds", and Dr Ahmad described the "smell of death" as the risk of disease spreads further.

"We tried yesterday to evacuate and bury them on our own responsibility, as the IDF refuse to give us permission to bury them outside the hospital," he said.

"We managed to bury 80 of them - the other 50 stayed there… [because] the attack happened and we couldn't do anything."

Al-Shifa hospital, has been the centre of Israeli bombardment across the past two weeks. Credit: AP

The surgeon told ITV News the only chance for anyone within al-Shifa to survive is for a full evacuation from the grounds. He says international assistance is necessary – but fears what may happen if it doesn’t come soon.

"The world is watching what’s happening here and no one is stopping this massacre," he said.

"It’s totally inhumane, it’s a big challenge just to go to the toilet. There is not water. There is no basic hygiene. Imagine living like this."

While he says, for now, the IDF haven’t entered the surgical building where he is now trapped, Dr Ahmed fears "they are coming at any time".

"They will be coming here and then we won’t be able to deal with our patients."

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