Gaza’s two largest hospitals have stopped taking new patients due to Israeli bombardment and shortages of medicine and fuel amid reports of rising deaths among patients and medical staff.
Al-Shifa and Al-Quds, Gaza’s biggest and second-biggest hospitals, respectively, said on Sunday that they had suspended operations as the World Health Organisation called for an immediate ceasefire to prevent rising deaths.
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Dr Nidal Abu Hadrous, a neurosurgeon working at Al-Shifa Hospital, said patients and staff were facing a “disastrous” situation with no electricity or water and no safe passage out.
“This can’t last long. Urgent intervention to save the staff and the patients is required,” Abu Hadrous told Al Jazeera.
Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza also suspended operations after its main generator ran out of fuel, hospital director Ahmed al-Kahlout told Al Jazeera.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the situation at Al-Shifa Hospital was “dire and perilous”.
“The world cannot stand silent while hospitals, which should be safe havens, are transformed into scenes of death, devastation, and despair,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a post on X, adding that Al-Shifa was “not functioning as a hospital anymore.”
Three nurses have been killed at Al-Shifa Hospital since Friday amid Israeli bombardment and clashes near the complex, the UN relief agency in the occupied Palestinian territory said in its latest update on Sunday.
Twelve patients, including two premature babies, have also died since the start of power outages, while critical infrastructure, including the cardiovascular facility and maternity ward, has been badly damaged, according to the UN agency.
Gaza’s health ministry has said that three premature newborns have died.
The situation is dire and perilous.
It's been 3 days without electricity, without water and with very poor internet which has severely impacted our ability to provide essential…
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) November 12, 2023
The WHO has said that 600-650 patients, 200-500 health workers and about 1,500 internally displaced people remain at the hospital with no safe passage out.
The patients include 36 babies who are at risk of dying due to the lack of functional incubators, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-governed enclave.
Israeli forces have surrounded medical facilities in the north of Gaza, including Al-Shifa Hospital, which Israeli officials claim is located on top of a Hamas command centre.
Hamas and hospital officials have denied that the complex hides any military infrastructure.
Palestinian officials and people inside the hospital have reported Israeli forces directly targeting the hospital complex with munitions and snipers.
Health Ministry Undersecretary Munir al-Boursh said snipers were firing at any movement inside the compound.
“There are wounded in the house and we can’t reach them,” he told Al Jazeera. “We can’t stick our heads out of the window.”
Israel’s military said on Sunday it offered to evacuate newborn babies and had placed 300 litres (80 gallons) of fuel at the entrance of the hospital, releasing video of its soldiers carrying containers and putting them on the ground, but that Hamas had blocked its efforts.
Hamas denied that it refused the fuel and said the hospital was under the authority of Gaza’s health ministry.
Al-Shifa Hospital director Muhammad Abu Salmiya rejected the Israeli statement as “propaganda”.
“Israel wants to show the world that it is not killing babies. It wants to whitewash its image with 300 litres of fuel, which barely lasts 30 minutes,” Abu Salmiya told Al Jazeera.
More than half of the 35 hospitals in Gaza are no longer operational amid Israel’s bombardment and ground operations in the enclave, which were launched in response to Hamas’s October 7 attacks on southern Israeli communities.
Israel’s campaign to eliminate Hamas has killed at least 11,078 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s health ministry.
Health officials have not updated the death toll since Friday, citing the collapse of services and communications at hospitals in the enclave.