As bombs rain down over Gaza, the bodies of innocent children, both dead and injured, are piling up in hospital.
Three children lie on a steel tray inside a Gaza hospital, which now doubles as a morgue. But what’s common with the victims is many have black ink on their skin.
“We received some cases where the parents wrote the names of their children on the legs and abdomen,” Dr Abdul Rahman Al Masri, the head of the emergency department at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, told CNN.
Parents are taking the extraordinary action as they fear “anything could happen” to their children and that no one could identify them if they fall victim to Israel’s relentless retaliation for the October 7 Hamas attacks.
The dead overnight from Saturday into Sunday exceeded 200, many innocent children, Dr Al Masri told CNN.
“What we noticed today is that many parents [are] writing the names of their children on their legs so they can get identified after airstrikes and if they get lost. This is a new phenomenon that just started in Gaza.”
“Many of the children are missing, many get here with their skulls broken... and it’s impossible to identify them, only through that writing do they get identified.”
Wounded Palestinians sit in Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. Photo / AP
Airstrikes on the most densely populated territory in the world have seen hundreds of children pulled from the rubble, many unrecognisable from their injuries.
- 'Relief she is safe': Hamas releases two hostages, US urges for more talks
- 'We are in a nightmare now': Gaza residents live in hell as war rages
- Gaza awaits aid from Egypt as Israel readies troops for ground assault
Surgeries performed with no painkillers
The injury toll is mounting so quickly and crucial medical supplies are so low doctors in Gaza have been forced to operate on victims without painkillers, according to Doctors Without Borders.
Leo Cans, who is head of mission in Jerusalem for the group also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres, told CNN on Monday dwindling supplies meant surgical operations were proceeding “without the correct dose of narcotics, without the correct dose of morphine”.
“In terms of pain management, it’s not happening. We currently have people being operated on without having morphine. It just happened to two kids,” Cans said. “We have a lot of kids that are unfortunately among the wounded, and I was discussing with one of our surgeons, who received a 10-year-old yesterday, burnt on 60 per cent of the body surface, and he didn’t end up having painkillers.”
“There is no justification at all to block these essential medicines to reach the population,” Cans continued.
It has also been reported that families are choosing to sleep in the same rooms as loved ones as “they want to live together or die together”.
Fuel shortages have also impacted health workers and their ability to care for patients.
Without fuel to run the water plants, the water has become untreated, which has led to outbreaks of diarrhoea, according to Cans.
In a video released by the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health on Sunday, Dr Fu’ad al-Bulbul, head of the neonatal department unit at Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza, warned that most of the infants under his care would perish if fuel runs out.
A Palestinian doctor treats a prematurely-born baby at Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir el-Balah, Gaza. Photo / AP
“If the electricity is stopped, there will be catastrophic events inside this unit. Most of the babies depending on ventilators will die because we can save only one, two babies, but we cannot save all babies,” Al-Bulbul said in the video.
A neonatal doctor working in a hospital in southern Gaza told CNN on Monday that premature babies relying on oxygen supplies will die if fuel is not urgently delivered into the enclave.
Gaza is more than 7000 truckloads of aid short. Normally the region receives 455 aid trucks a day.
Israel has allowed just 0.5 per cent of regular aid into the territory.
Israel declared a “complete siege” of Gaza two weeks ago in response to Hamas’ attack, hitting the region with airstrikes and shutting off the entire population’s access to food, water and power.
It was in response to Hamas’ assault which saw at least 1400 people killed, the worst massacre of Jewish people since the Holocaust.
More than 200 people were also taken hostage.
Over the past 24 hours, it was announced that Hamas has released two more hostages.
In a statement, the military wing of Hamas said it had decided to release the two women for “compelling humanitarian” reasons.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had “facilitated” the release of the two captives and transported them out of Gaza on Monday night, local time.
The announcement of the hostage’s release comes three days after the release of two Americans who had been held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip - Judith Raanan and her teenage daughter, Natalie.
Freed hostage describes time in captivity
One of the now-freed hostages, grandmother and Israeli peace activist Yocheved Lifshitz, has described the “hell she went through” during her kidnapping at the hands of Hamas, but also described how Hamas looked after her medical needs.
Yocheved Lifshitz, one of the two women released from Hamas captivity late Monday, October 23, 2023, being wheeled in a wheelchair down the hall at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo / AP
“I went through hell,” Lifshitz told reporters at a Tel Aviv, Israel, hospital on Tuesday, one day after her release. Speaking from a wheelchair, she delivered her remarks in a faltering voice, still visibly tired.
Her account of Hamas’ tunnel network, which she likened to “a spider web,” offered a glimpse of the difficulties facing Israel as it weighs when and how to launch a ground invasion of Gaza. Hamas, which oversees the territory and is designated a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union, has dug an enormous warren of tunnels and underground chambers, in which it is believed to be hiding weapons, fighters and some hostages.
After reaching the tunnels, “we walked for kilometres underground,” Lifshitz said of the complex, which she said included numerous rooms large enough to contain dozens of people.
She described a well-organised operation, with operatives given special responsibilities, including doctors, guards and medics.
The militants brought her to a large underground hall where they had gathered 25 people, before five from Nir Oz were separated and placed in a room on their own, Lifschitz said. “We were closely guarded by their guards and a medic. At a certain point a doctor also arrived and made sure that we received our pills and medication,” she said.
Lifshitz said her captors paid special attention to the health of the hostages, providing medication, shampoo and feminine hygiene products. They were also fed the same provisions their guards ate, which was a single daily meal of pita bread, two kinds of cheese and cucumber.
“They were very attentive to the sanitary aspect,” she said, “so we don’t get sick on them, God forbid. There was a doctor nearby who would come every two or three days to check in on us. And the medic took the responsibility to bring us medication. If they did not have the exact same medication, they brought us the equivalent.”
In a video showing Lifshitz’s handover to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which was filmed and released by the armed wing of Hamas, Lifschitz appears to grasp one Hamas member’s hands and repeat the Hebrew word “shalom,” meaning goodbye and also peace.
Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you