Gaza City: The Palestinian health ministry said on Saturday that 39 babies are at risk of death in Gaza’s Al Shifa hospital after electricity was cut off and amid a lack of oxygen and medicine.
The ministry sent out a statement correcting remarks made by Health Minister Mai Al Kaila in a televised press conference in which she said “39 infants died in the modern care for children department because they couldn’t get oxygen or medicine to them and electricity was cut off.” The ministry statement added that one baby had died.
WHO says it has lost communication with its contacts in Al Shifa hospital in Gaza
The World Health Organization said it has lost communication with its contacts in Al Shifa hospital in northern Gaza, and expressed “grave concerns” for the safety of everyone trapped there by the fighting while calling for an immediate ceasefire.
The spokesperson for the Gaza health ministry said that operations in Al Shifa hospital complex, the largest in the Palestinian enclave, were suspended on Saturday after it ran out of fuel.
WHO said it has “grave concerns for the safety of the health workers, hundreds of sick and injured patients, including babies on life support and displaced people who remain inside the hospital”, and reiterated its call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
According to medical and media sources from inside the complex, Al Shifa Medical Complex in Gaza is under total siege and has run out of water, fuel, food, electricity and telecommunications, with thousands of people inside, including wounded individuals, patients and the displaced.
It’s also being reported that many babies in critical care at the Gaza Al Shifa hospital in ventilators are having to be ventilated by hand.
“It’s totally a war zone, it’s a totally scary atmosphere here in the hospital,” Ahmed Al Mokhallalati, a senior plastic surgeon at Al Shifa hospital, told Reuters.
“It’s continuous bombardment for more than 24 hours now, nothing stopped, you know, it’s all from the tanks, from the street, from the airstrike.” The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the reported situation in Al Shifa hospital, where a Palestinian health ministry spokesman said Israeli shelling had killed a patient in intensive care.
Ashraf Al Qidra, who represents the health ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza, said Israeli army snipers commandeering rooftops of buildings near the hospital fired into the medical complex from time to time, limiting the ability of medics and people to move.
“We are besieged inside the Al Shifa Medical Complex, and the (Israeli) occupation has targeted most of the buildings inside,” he said.
The hospital suspended operations after fuel ran out, Qidra said.
Patients facing death
The Palestinian Health Minister Mai Al Kaila stated that patients in Gaza hospitals are facing inevitable death, laying blame on Israel and the international community for the dire situation.
“Out of the 30 hospitals in Gaza, 20 are now completely shut down,” Al Kaila emphasized. She further expressed concern that instead of providing aid, the IDF is besieging Gaza’s hospitals. The psychiatric hospital has also been tragically bombed.
Al Kaila urgently called for the establishment of safe corridors to facilitate the evacuation of the wounded for treatment outside of Gaza. She emphasized the need for the entry of volunteer medical teams, fuel for electricity generators in hospitals, and the immediate provision of medical materials, supplies, and medicines.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Health Ministry Director General Dr. Munir al Borsh said: “There is very violent bombing almost every minute. We are trapped inside the Al Shifa complex.”
On Friday night, the Ministry of Health said that up to 30,000 people are inside the hospital’s complex, including patients, displaced people and medical staff.
‘We need help’
At Gaza’s largest hospital, a sheltering Palestinian said Friday he felt “under siege” as the facility was encircled by fighting between Israeli soldiers and Hamas militants.
“We need help from the international community, people are dying here due to lack of treatment,” said Atef, who has taken refuge at Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City, surrounded by patients on trolleys.
The hospital was hit earlier on Friday by an Israeli strike, the facility’s director and Gaza’s Hamas government said, with the latter giving a death toll of 13.
The Israeli military has denied bombing hospitals.
Gaza resident Hanane, whose wounded daughter is being treated at Shifa, said that with each explosion his “daughter starts shaking”.
The girl “was wounded in the bombing of a queue outside a bakery”, Hanane said, wondering aloud about how join the rest of her family who have fled to the south where the fighting is less intense.
In the courtyard of Shifa hospital, the boom of explosions echoed around Mohammed Rihane as he walked on crutches for his injured leg.
“People are dying, torn to shreds in the streets and we can’t go and look for them,” he said, while moving around the city remains incredibly dangerous.
The Israeli military says its troops are in the heart of Gaza City, battling Hamas, which it says uses hospitals “as command and control centres and hideouts”, a tactic denied by the group.
Al Shifa: Gaza’s largest hospital in the headlines
Al Shifa Hospital, hit by missiles on Friday, is the largest in the 360-sq-km Gaza Strip.
In recent weeks Israel has said Hamas militants have hidden command centres and tunnels beneath it and other hospitals.
Hamas, health authorities and Shifa directors have denied that the group is concealing military infrastructure in or under the complex and have said they would welcome an international inspection.
WHAT IS SHIFA?
Shifa is a sprawling complex of buildings and courtyards a few hundred metres from Gaza City’s small fishing port, sandwiched between Beach refugee camp and the city’s Rimal neighbourhood.
Its name comes from the Arabic word “healing”.
It was built in 1946 during British rule, two years before Britain withdrew from Palestine. It survived the Egyptian invasion in 1948 and two decades of Egyptian military rule.
In 1967, Israel captured and occupied the Gaza Strip and Shifa remained a focal point – long before Hamas – where many Palestinians were taken during clashes with Israeli troops.
In 1971, the Times of London reported a gun battle between a Palestinian militant who hid under a bed in the nurses’ quarters and an Israeli army patrol that was searching the hospital.
In 1987, during the opening week of the First Intifada against Israeli occupation, The New York Times reported a confrontation when several hundred Palestinians outside Shifa threw rocks at Israeli soldiers while shouting, “Come and kill us all or get out!”
Faced with the advance of Israeli troops and bombardments, tens of thousands of residents in Gaza have sought refuge in hospitals across the city, which was home to nearly 600,000 people before the war.
The fighting is also encroaching on other Gaza City hospitals, witnesses and Hamas government officials told AFP.
At Al Rantisi hospital, a distraught young girl said “Israeli tanks are besieging us from all sides”.
“We were asked to immediately leave the hospital, but there’s neither the Red Cross nor anyone who can guarantee the safe exit of civilians,” she said.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said Israeli snipers fired on Al Quds hospital on Friday, killing one person and wounding 28 others, the majority children.
The Israeli military told AFP it would not comment on the attack because it could “compromise the troops”.
Israel’s campaign has killed over 11,000 people across the Gaza Strip, the majority of them civilians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
The war erupted when Hamas gunmen stormed across the border from Gaza into southern Israel in an unprecedented attack that killed around 1,200 people, according to an updated toll from Israeli officials.
After five weeks of war, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned Friday that Gaza’s health system had “reached a point of no return”, putting the lives of thousands of patients and medics at risk.
Rantisi hospital had been forced to cease operations, the ICRC said, while Al Nasser hospital was among those heavily damaged.
“The rules of war are clear. Hospitals are specially protected facilities under international humanitarian law,” the organisation said in a statement.
Hundreds of thousands of people are estimated to remain in northern parts of the Palestinian territory, including Gaza City, while overall the United Nations says almost 1.6 million people have been displaced by the war.
At Shifa, director Mohammad Abu Salmiya said “all the hospitals of Gaza City were targeted” by the Israeli military.
“We didn’t expect to see hospitals bombed in 2023. We can’t evacuate, because we have more than 60 patients in intensive care, more than 50 babies in incubators, more than 500 patients on dialysis,” he said, looking visibly exhausted in his blue scrubs.