‘Nothing short of hell’: UK doctors describe horror in Gaza’s collapsing hospitals

"Those who've been killed have had more mercy," one doctor tells ITV News.

Report by ITV News' Sejal Karia and Roohi Hasan 

Whilst reporters are still denied access to report from Gaza, the first-hand testimony from those bearing witness to what is going on inside the war-torn territory is even more crucial.

For a special eyewitness report on the desperate state of hospitals in Gaza, ITV News spoke to three senior British and American doctors who have just returned from the war zone and told of the appalling scenes they saw unfold around them.

They have all previously worked in conflict zones across the world, yet they all describe the situation in the hospitals in Gaza as the worst they've seen.

Credit: ITV News

They described resuscitating Palestinian children on the brink of death, and how one held the hand of a fatally injured young man as he died on the ground.

One observed that after two weeks of working inside the emergency rooms, those who were killed seem to have had more mercy bestowed on them than those who are surviving.

This comes as the World Health Organisation said this week that just 15 of Gaza's 36 hospitals are currently operational, following more than three months of Israeli bombardment and ground attacks.

And even then they are only partially operational - with little power or basic medical supplies after a three- month siege by Israel cut off water, food, and medical supplies, with limited aid allowed in during this time.

And yet help is needed now more than ever.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says more than 25,000 Palestinians have now been killed by Israeli military action. That includes 11,000 children.

There are almost 63,000 Palestinians who have been injured, with only the most basic medical care to treat them.

British emergency medicine specialist Dr Chris Hook from Bristol Royal Infirmary travelled to Gaza as the team leader for Médecins Sans Frontières.

He and his team worked at Nasser hospital in Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

Credit: ITV News

British gastroenterology surgeon from University College Hospital London, Dr Khaled Dawas, travelled to Al Aqsa hospital in Deir Al Balah, central Gaza, with a team of British and other doctors working with NGOS, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and International Rescue Committee (IRC).

They are the doctors who have seen first hand the horrors playing out inside Gaza's hospitals.

"I never thought I would be useful as a pediatrician in a war zone"

American paediatrician Dr Seema Jilani arrived with them as the IRC’s emergency health technical advisor.

"Deeply appalling, failure of humanity, staggeringly apocalyptic scenes," Dr Jilani said, witnessing a health system on the frontline that is collapsing, and the agony of people watching loved ones dying slowly.

"There was a 23-year-old gentleman whose leg had blown off in an explosion ... There was no morphine available, and he died on the floor of a Gaza emergency room. With no dignity - and I merely tried to comfort him and I held his hand," Dr Jilani said.

She spent two weeks at Al Aqsa hospital in Central Gaza. A veteran of war medicine and still shocked by what she saw.

"I never thought I would be useful as a pediatrician in a war zone."

Young patients treated in overcrowded, barely functioning hospitals, with medical supplies having either run out or running woefully short.

"Those who've been killed have had more mercy"

Dr Khaled Dawas, general surgeon at University College Hospital said that walking through the emergency department "was nothing short of hell."

"Those who've been killed have had more mercy bestowed on them than those who are surviving."

Dr Dawas arrived from the UK to find medics stretched thin, and struggling to care for the unceasing flow of the wounded.

This forced him to make impossible choices - who would get treated and who wouldn't. Who to save and who to let die.

Dr Khaled Dawas caring for a patient on the hospital floor. Credit: ITV News

"This sounds awful ... You think about: 'Is this worthwhile putting an effort into this particular human being? Because if I spend an extra hour with this person, I spend less time with the other person who's got more chance of surviving.'

"To think of that as a parent or as a brother or as a son of my parents, I mean that's a horrendous thing."

And all the while there is relentless bombing and shelling.

The area around Nasser Hospital in South Gaza has come under repeated Israeli bombardment.

"They will never go back to being the same"

Dr Hook was there when one airstrike hit nearby and told ITV News: "It was without doubt the most brutal situation I've ever encountered in my entire career."

"I was in the car park of Nasser hospital and heard an explosion and everything shook. So, you know, it's very close."

The emergency department rapidly became completely overwhelmed.

"There's chaos everywhere ... You were having to step over dead and dying people to reach ... the people that you're trying to treat. And on that day I worked to try and treat two badly injured children who were both put on the same trolley."

Credit: ITV News

Obviously during that there's so many patients arriving that a lot of the anesthetic drugs ran out, a lot of the pain relief ran out."

Dr Hook described the situation in Gaza as "absolutely dir "The injuries of a lot of the patients that we saw are injuries I've never seen before. Huge, huge wounds - thousands of them will need long-term care, or will have disabling conditions for the rest of their lives. They will never go back to being the same." All the doctors told us of the overwhelming guilt they felt leaving Gaza. The hospitals in crisis and the Gazan medics trying to keep them going. Dr Chris Hook said: "We call these things hospitals, but that's a really nominal title ... The level of care they can provide is, is minimal. And it's held together by a few people who can only be described as superheroes. Dr Khaled Dawas said it was "extremely harrowing."

"You came out of it feeling helpless because you can't keep up with the volume of work, the volume of casualties coming into the doors." Dr Seema Jilani: "My mind, my heart and my soul are still in Gaza and my body is here ... The privilege of where I was born is that I can leave." They each said they will be returning as soon as they can to help a healthcare system on its knees.

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