Gazans under bombardment say there is a surge of severely injured children entering hospitals, doctors operating without anesthesia and morgues overflowing with bodies.
The Jabaliya neighborhood north of Gaza City was pummeled with Israeli airstrikes for a third consecutive day on Thursday, while doctors treating the victims described nightmarish scenes of operating without basic supplies or anesthesia.
Dr. Hussam Abu Safyia, director of the pediatric ward at Kamal Adwan Hospital, where many of the casualties from the Jabaliya strikes were taken, said the majority of the people arriving were children. Many were severely burned or were missing limbs.
On Tuesday, after the first strike in Jabaliya, the hospital received about 40 people who did not survive, and 250 others who were wounded, he said. The numbers were nearly the same on Wednesday, when another strike hit. On Thursday, a strike damaged a United Nations school being used as a shelter and sent in another wave of patients: 10 dead and 80 others wounded.
“I’ve never in my life seen injuries this bad,” Dr. Abu Safyia said on Thursday by phone, adding, “We saw children without heads.”
The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, which runs the school, said that the school had been among four of its shelters — housing nearly 20,000 people total — that had been damaged in the previous 24 hours. Twenty people were reported to have been killed at the Jabaliya shelter, the agency said, along with three people in other strikes at the Shati and Bureij camps.
The Israeli military said that in its strikes on Jabaliya, it had been targeting Hamas commanders who played key roles in the attacks on Oct. 7, which Israeli officials said killed more than 1,400 people. The military also said that Hamas had an extensive tunnel network in Jabaliya.
On Wednesday, Dr. Abu Safyia said, he was working with a colleague in the hospital’s neonatal intensive-care unit — one of two units that still had power amid a severe fuel shortage — when casualties from Jabaliya started arriving.
When they rushed down to the emergency room to help, he said, his colleague was stunned to see that two of her own children were among the dead. Her 9-year-old and 7-year-old had been killed in their home, he said, along with several of her siblings and relatives.
“We are working at a place where at any moment we expect our children, spouses, siblings or friends to come in in pieces,” he said.
Some children could not be identified because of the severity of their injuries, he said. The hospital’s morgue was so full that people were stacking bodies on top of one another.
“We wish for death,” said Dr. Abu Safyia. “It is easier than seeing the horrific scenes we’re witnessing.”
He later added: “Live images are being broadcast to the whole world of people blown up into pieces, of women and children who are being murdered, for what? What did they do wrong?”
The hospital, which is in the city of Beit Lahia, just north of Jabaliya, was running extremely low on medical supplies, like all others in the Gaza Strip, he said. With no anesthesia, doctors were operating on people with severe injuries using over-the-counter painkillers like paracetamol to help ease the pain. They had a limited supply of antibiotics and were using vinegar and chlorine to disinfect wounds, the doctor added.
“The children’s screams during surgeries can be heard from outside,” Dr. Abu Safyia said. “We are operating on people’s skulls without anesthesia.”
Doctors and nurses were using the flashlights on their phones to operate in the dark because a severe shortage of fuel had left the hospital’s generators able to power only two departments — the neonatal intensive-care unit and the pediatric emergency room, where 12 children are on ventilators, he said. If the fuel runs out, he added, “the hospital will turn into a mass grave.”
Hours earlier, Dr. Ashraf Al-Qudra, a spokesman for the Hamas-run Gazan Health Ministry, had held up the body of a dead child wrapped in a shroud at a news conference at Al-Shifa Hospital as he described the growing death toll.
The ministry said that more than 9,000 people had been killed since the start of Israel’s relentless bombardment of Gaza, including more than 3,000 children. Many others remain missing or buried under the rubble.
Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sittah, a British-Palestinian plastic surgeon volunteering at Shifa’s burn treatment unit, said the hospital — the largest in Gaza — had received about 70 patients from the strikes on Jabaliya since Tuesday, and many had no homes to return to.
Medical workers were being stretched to the breaking point, and normally preventable deaths had begun to soar, he said. Each surgery was turning into a grueling exercise of trying to use the fewest resources possible, he said.
The Gazan Health Ministry said 16 of the 35 hospitals in the Strip were already out of service from damage or lack of power. The maternity ward at Shifa was being used to treat the wounded, and expectant mothers had been moved to Al-Hilo Hospital, which the ministry said was damaged by bombardment on Wednesday night.
Communications with Gaza City remained spotty to nonexistent on Thursday, after a blackout for much of Wednesday left ambulances and rescue workers unable to find the injured, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.
Ahmad Sardah, a Jabaliya resident who said his home had been damaged by the strike on Wednesday, was able to send a quick message during a fleeting moment of internet connection before contact was lost again.
“The situation is tragic” in the neighborhood, he said.
He said in a Facebook post he managed to write on Thursday: “If only friends and relatives who are outside could tell us what is going on around us instead of asking us how we are doing, because without internet and phone lines, all we hear is airstrikes and bombs. Where, how, why, and who? None of us know.”
Dr. Ghassan Khatib, a political scientist at Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank, said that Jabaliya — both the name of a town and a refugee camp next to it — had a reputation as a stronghold of resistance to Israeli occupation for years.
The first intifada, an uprising that lasted from 1987 to 1993, started there after camp residents were run over by an Israeli vehicle, he said. Their funerals became demonstrations that spread to the Balata refugee camp in the West Bank city of Nablus and elsewhere, he said.
Tamara Alrifai, an official with UNRWA, said in an online briefing Thursday that the agency believed that about 30,000 of the Jabaliya camp’s 116,000 residents had remained after Israel’s order to evacuate under threat of bombardment last month. It was unclear whether they had all gone to the south, as directed, or to other areas of northern Gaza.
People displaced throughout Gaza have flocked to hospitals, hoping for a greater chance at safety. The Kamal Adwan Hospital is also housing more than 3,000 displaced people. Dr. Abu Safyia is among them, and barely sleeping. He said he sometimes goes into an empty room, shuts the door and sobs.
“These are people who had dreams, they had lives, they had a future,” he said. “It all ended.”
Euan Ward and Abu Bakr Bashir contributed reporting.