Skip to main content

Gaza Baptist Hospital massacre: Survivors recall 'doomsday'

'Like doomsday': Survivors of Gaza's Al-Ahli Baptist hospital massacre recall horrific moment
4 min read
20 October, 2023
"I woke up in the hospital (...) I heard that six of my family were killed, including my brother and his two children," one of the wounded told The New Arab.  
A demonstrator cries as thousands take part in a vigil outside Downing Street for the victims of an airstrike on Al-Ahli Al-Arabi Baptist hospital in Gaza City and all Palestinians who have been killed by Israeli airstrikes over the last days. [Getty]

For the third day in a row, Mohammed Tafish, with other volunteers, is still busy collecting scattered body parts of those killed in the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in central Gaza on a strike widely reported by Israel. 

Speaking to The New Arab, the 39-year-old father of six said that he sought shelter at the hospital because he thought since it belonged to Christians, that would protect him as well as his family from the Israeli "crimes committed in Gaza."

Like almost a million other Palestinians in the north of the besieged Gaza Strip, Tafish and his family were forced to evacuate their houses in the southern parts of Gaza under the heavy Israeli strikes to avoid losing any of his children. 

But even the southern parts in which Israel told people to evacuate are being targeted. 

Live Story

"I did not think that I would survive the Israeli airstrikes (...) we walked on foot for more than two hours. When we reached the hospital, I breathed a sigh of relief and thought it would be safer for my family," he said. 

What made him feel better at the time was that he found thousands of other people sheltering in the hospital's courtyard. He made various friends, mainly those with children, to play with his children. 

But Tafish's feeling of security did not last long after he heard a massive explosion that shook the place. "At first, I thought I was dead because I didn't feel anything around me. But after a while, I regained consciousness and heard screaming sounds everywhere," he recalled. 

"I quickly ran toward the sounds. I saw body parts everywhere. Severed heads, children with charred bodies, and women were thrown everywhere," he said.  

"I didn't know what to do (...) I started screaming my children's names at everyone. Truly, it was like doomsday: no one knew anyone, and we could not understand what was going on around me," he added. 

Live Story

Samer Tarazi helps Tafish collect the body parts scattered across the hospital's yard. 

Tarazi told TNA, "Thousands of people lived here as if they were one family. But now, we only can collect some memories of some people who are now in the graves." 

"I was here when the massacre occurred. I went out to buy some food for the children and took them with me," the 50-year-old man said. As soon as he entered the hospital, he said he heard the sound of an explosion. Then, he saw a huge mass of fire. 

"The entire square was ablaze with fire, and I saw bodies flying everywhere. I cannot believe that I am still alive with my five children," he remarked. 

Neither Tarazi nor Tafish can tell you who was directly at fault for the massacre, but they agreed that "Israel is committing genocide against all the Palestinians". 

This sentiment was shared by Samira al-Ghoula, a woman displaced from her house in the al-Shujaeia neighbourhood to the hospital, who squarely blamed Israel for the massacre. 

"Even if the PIJ launched the rocket, it was Israel who forced us to evacuate our houses and put us in danger all the time," Al-Ghoula said, calling on the international community to charge Israel as a criminal state.

According to the Health Ministry in Gaza, at least 471 Palestinians, mostly women and their children, were killed by the reported Israeli airstrike attack on the hospital. It added that more than 300 others were wounded, including at least 28 in critical condition.

Salim Shurab was among the wounded. He told TNA that he only remembers seeing "a big rocket" fall on the hospital, and then he felt himself fly into the sky and land violently on the ground.

"I woke up in the hospital (...) I heard that six of my family were killed, including my brother and his two children," he said. 

The indiscriminate Israeli strikes have so far killed 3,785 Palestinians, including 1,524 children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

The continued attacks and the lack of electricity, water, food and fuel have led to urgent calls for humanitarian aid to cross into Gaza, with more than 200 trucks waiting to enter the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.