Time running out at Gaza hospitals amid power blackout after Israeli siege

Life-saving machines running on generators will soon stop working, amid Israel’s refusal to allow fuel supplies into the enclave.

FILE - Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023. As Israeli warplanes pummel Gaza to avenge the Hamas attack, Palestinians say the military has largely unleashed its fury on civilians. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair, File)
Smoke rises following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, Wednesday, October 11, 2023, as the enclave's only power station stopped working after Israel blocked supplies of fuel [Fatima Shbair/AP Photo]

Gaza City – With a power blackout enveloping the Gaza Strip, Israeli missiles bombarding the blockaded enclave are no longer the only sounds of death. In hospitals, the beeping of life-saving machines is, to many, also a reminder of increasingly perilous survival.

These machines could, at any moment, fall into a haunting silence.

“My brother, two sisters and parents are slowly fading away right before my eyes, and it’s heart-wrenching that I cannot do anything to save them,” said Ahmed Sheikh Ali, whose family survived an attack on their home but are in hospital.

Across the Gaza Strip, hospitals are on the brink of running out of spare fuel, after the Palestinian territory’s sole power station stopped functioning on Wednesday following Israel’s refusal to allow supplies of fuel.

In a statement to the media earlier on Wednesday, Ashraf Al Qidra, spokesperson of the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, explained that Israel’s blockade and the refusal to allow fuel into Gaza are pushing “our medical operation into a precarious situation”.

Without quick action to restore power, the situation in the hospitals is poised for a “huge loss of these lives”, he said, a stark warning of the potential consequences of the continued power shortages.

At the heart of this crisis are the intensive care units, where thousands of injured people are struggling for their lives. A significant number of them rely on electricity-powered oxygen generators to breathe and survive.

Beyond ICUs, the blackout has also hit efforts to provide aid and maintain emergency communication systems online across the devastated Strip. All of this is deepening a humanitarian crisis.

Refrigerated food, a lifeline for many since the war began, is on the brink of expiration due to the destruction of shopping centres and the incapacity of supermarkets to operate, all because of the power shortages. Over two million people are caught between the ravages of terror and the perils of deprivation.

Efforts to mediate and allow the entry of fuel and vital medical supplies have fallen short. The Gaza Power Plant remains inactive, casting a dark shadow over the Strip’s ability to sustain life in the coming days.

The Gaza Power Plant says Israel must lift the blockade and provide access to the fuel that the people so desperately require.

With the power cuts, accessing money through ATMs and banks has become a major challenge. Families yearning to reach their loved ones overseas are left with no means of communication, adding another layer of pain to already unimaginable conditions.

For journalists working on the front lines in Gaza, access to information, sources and witnesses – the lifeblood of informed reporting – has become increasingly difficult, if not impossible.

Ferial Abdo, a Palestinian journalist in Gaza, shared the challenges of continuing her reporting work amid the harsh conditions of war and power shortages. She explained, “I haven’t been able to write or cover the ongoing developments for an entire day. I strive to conserve as much battery on my phone as I can because once it runs out, I’ll have no way to stay connected online.”

“I cannot continue reporting, and that is not only a problem for me, but also for my people. Because if we, as journalists, do not make their voices heard, then the world will not know anything about us,” Abdo added.

Even foreign media outlets based in the Strip find themselves struggling with a severe inability to recharge their essential equipment. Many are relying on personal power banks, which too will soon run out of battery.

So far, efforts to get Israel to allow access to fuel and essential medical supplies into the Gaza Strip have failed. Until that changes, the Gaza Power Plant is likely to remain offline.

For thousands of families like Sheikh Ali’s, time is fast running out.

Source: Al Jazeera