‘Decomposing Bodies of Four Babies’: A Grim Reminder of Israel’s War That Has Not Spared Children

On November 10, a nurse had no choice but to carry the baby he thought will survive with a temporary cut to his oxygen supply, during an evacuation. He had to leave the other four babies with their breathing machines on. Despite promises, no one came to take them back to a safe place.

New Delhi: Last month, a Gazan journalist ventured into the hospital to find an awful visual: decomposing bodies of four babies, eaten by worms, blackened by mold, mauled by stray dogs.

Al-Nasr Children’s Hospital director Bakr Qaoud told The Washington Post that at the height of Israel’s assault on northern Gaza in November, everybody was ordered to evacuate.

The whereabouts of the parents of the infants, born premature, were not known after a month of war.

There were a total of five infants Qaoud was taking care of. All of them were vulnerable.

They needed oxygen, and medication administered at regular intervals. There were no portable respirators or incubators to transport them. Without life support, the nurse feared, they wouldn’t survive an evacuation, the newspaper reported.

However, after the Israeli Defense Force delivered an ultimatum on November 10, he had no choice but to carry the baby he thought will survive with a temporary cut to his oxygen supply. He had to leave the other four babies, reluctantly, with their breathing machines on.

Israeli forces told al-Nasr’s staff they had to leave, according to Qaoud. “They sent us a map for a safe route,” he told The Post in a WhatsApp message. “They gave us half an hour to go out. Otherwise, they will bombard the hospital.”

However, the staff was promised that ambulances will be sent back to take the patients from al-Nasr and al-Rantisi, a pediatric cancer centre.

In a telephone conversation with the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, an arm of Israel’s defense ministry, the al-Rantisi official requested ambulances. In a recording of that call released by the Israel Defense Forces, a senior COGAT officer responds in Arabic: “No problem.”

The senior COGAT officer tells the al-Rantisi official that he will “arrange coordination” for ambulances. He gives the precise route that medical staff should take out of the complex.

The al-Rantisi official reminds COGAT that staff will also be evacuating al-Nasr. The COGAT officer acknowledges the reminder.

Qaoud, too, said there was “coordination with the Red Cross and Israeli army that we will go out and then these cases will be later evacuated to another hospital that was safe.”

According to Human Rights Watch, Gaza authorities said that more than 6,000 Palestinian children have been killed in Gaza since the Hamas-led attack on Israel on October 7. There are many who are still missing and buried under the rubble.

According to Israeli authorities, the October 7 attack killed at least 33 children, and 40 children were taken hostage.

Also read: As the World Watches, Gaza Has Become a Graveyard for Children

Of what were the babies guilty? Why did the army target them?

The journalist, Hazem Balousha, described the scene on camera and hurried out of the unit.

The nurse, who reviewed the video, said the corpses were found where he had left the babies. No one had come for them, The Post reported.

“The remains, still hooked up to respirators, bear little resemblance to bodies. They appear as piles of rotting flesh, bones protruding, body parts difficult to make out. Soiled-looking diapers remain wrapped around their middles.”

However, on Saturday, IDF spokeswoman Doron Spielman, during a live conversation on X, formerly Twitter, appeared to cast doubt on the story, saying: “There were no premature babies that decomposed because of the IDF; there were probably no babies that decomposed whatsoever.”

The evacuation was painful. There was no way to reach the babies’ families, the nurse told the newspaper. He said he had no contact information, and communications were disrupted in many parts of Gaza. Their parents had been “displaced people,” he said, “who knew their children were in the hospital and didn’t think the hospital would be hit or raided by the occupation.

“They thought they left them in safety.”

Qaoud told The Post that the Israeli military “was informed there were cases” left inside the hospital, but “was determined to evacuate”

Davies, the Red Cross spokeswoman, said the organisation “received several requests to evacuate hospitals in the north of Gaza, but due to this security situation, we were not involved in any operations of evacuations, nor did teams commit to doing so.”

No one has emerged to claim the bodies. There has been no indication that the parents know their children are dead, the nurse told The Post.

He remains haunted by the event. He believes he needs psychiatric treatment, the daily reported.

Of what, he asks, were the babies guilty?

“Were they fighters?” he asked. “Were they holding weapons? Were they firing rockets?

“Why does the army hit the oxygen and electricity? Why did the army target them?”