Israeli siege forces Gaza’s only cancer hospital to shut amid fuel shortage

The Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital has suspended operations after an Israeli blockade cut off fuel supplies.

A medical worker assists a Palestinian, who was wounded in Israeli strikes, at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Nasser hospital
A medical worker assists a Palestinian, who was wounded in Israeli strikes in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip on October 26, 2023 [File: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

Palestinian health authorities have said that the only hospital offering cancer treatment in the Gaza Strip has gone out of service after it ran out of fuel amid Israel’s continuing blockade of the territory.

The Israeli siege on Gaza has cut off supplies of fuel and heavily restricted access to food, water and electricity, while the Israeli military continues to bombard the Strip, where hospitals are filled with the dying and wounded and shortages have put huge pressure on medical workers.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital director Subhi Sukeyk said that the facility was no longer functioning.

“We tell the world, ‘Don’t leave cancer patients to a certain death due to the hospital being out of service’,” Sukeyk said.

Palestinian authorities say that 8,796 people have been killed by Israeli bombardment – more than a third of them children – since October 7, when the Palestinian armed group Hamas carried out an attack on southern Israel, which Israeli authorities say killed more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians.

The suspension of operations at the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital means that 16 of the Gaza Strip’s 35 hospitals are now out of service, as are more than 50 of Gaza’s 72 primary healthcare clinics.

“The lives of 70 cancer patients inside the hospital are seriously threatened,” Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said in a statement.

“This is a moment of life and death for thousands of patients in Gaza unless hospitals continue working,” World Health Organization spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic told Al Jazeera. “The case of cancer patients is already fragile. If they don’t get the treatment they need, it is really a death sentence for them.”

Sukeyk had previously warned Al Jazeera that the hospital was running low on fuel, and that ceasing operations would have a devastating impact on patients.

In a social media post on Wednesday, the medical group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders, said that the hospital had been damaged by a projectile on Monday.

“Israeli authorities continue to prevent the entry of fuel into Gaza, which is essential for powering hospitals,” the group said. “In addition, hospitals and healthcare facilities are being attacked during this horrific onslaught.”

Cancer patients are not the only people experiencing medical vulnerability amid heavy bombing: pregnant women also face the prospect of giving birth without medical support.

“The estimated 50,000 pregnant women and girls in Gaza risk missing ante-natal care and giving birth without electricity or medical supplies,” the group Human Rights Watch said in a previous statement.

Fuel shortages have also pushed humanitarian operations in Gaza to their breaking point.

“UNRWA desperately needs fuel. No fuel has come into the Gaza Strip for three and a half weeks now,” Juliette Touma, spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), told Al Jazeera.

“We are completely overwhelmed. We have 670,000 people in our shelters, this is four times more than what we had planned for,” she said. “Fuel is absolutely lifesaving.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies