On the ground

Desperately trying to save children at one of Gaza’s last functioning hospitals

Dr Seema Jilani is a paediatrician who has just evacuated from al-Aqsa Hospital in central Gaza, where fighting has intensified. Tom Bennett hears her moving account of severe injuries, depleting supplies, and how she fought to let those she couldn’t save die with dignity

Thursday 11 January 2024 17:40 GMT
Palestinian families outside al-Aqsa Hospital in central Gaza
Palestinian families outside al-Aqsa Hospital in central Gaza (AFP via Getty)

An 11-year-old girl with deep-tissue burns so extensive that her extremities have stiffened, screaming from her hospital bed through lungs choked by smoke. A one-year-old infant who endured a traumatic amputation of his leg, still wearing his bloodstained nappy. A stray bullet ricochets into the intensive care unit, as airstrikes pound the streets just metres away.

These are the scenes inside Gaza’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, as described by Dr Seema Jilani, who has been working on its wards and in its operating theatres as part of a delegation of medical staff from the humanitarian aid group the International Rescue Committee.

Al-Aqsa Hospital – situated in Deir al-Balah, in central Gaza – is “the most important hospital remaining in Gaza’s Middle Area”, according to World Health Organisation chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. It has been at the centre of spiralling violence in recent weeks, as fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas has intensified in the surrounding area.

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