Israel has besieged hospitals in the northern half of the Gaza Strip since Thursday.
Medical facilities have been “under relentless bombardment” for the past 24 hours, Doctors Without Borders said on Saturday.
The humanitarian charity added that its teams and patients were still inside al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, the largest medical facility in the territory, where more than 11,000 people had been killed since 7 October as of Friday.
The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza was unable to publish updated casualty figures on Saturday “as Israeli forces are besieging hospitals and cut telecommunications,” Defense for Children International-Palestine said.
Doctors Without Borders reported that al-Shifa lost electrical power on Friday and that “ambulances can no longer move to collect the injured, and nonstop bombardment prevents patients and staff from evacuating.”
Staff were “witnessing people being shot as they attempt[ed] to flee the hospital,” according to the charity.
Mohammed Obeid, a surgeon with Doctors Without Borders at al-Shifa hospital, said that sniper fire targeted four patients inside the facility, hitting a quadriplegic patient in the neck and another patient in the abdomen:He said that two neonatal patients died because the incubators are not working due to lack of electricity and an adult patient died after his ventilator shut down.
Obeid asked for a guarantee that al-Shifa’s 600 inpatients could be evacuated safely.
Hospital staff “shot and wounded”
The UK charity Medical Aid for Palestinians said on Saturday that al-Shifa’s intensive care unit had been bombed and damaged and that “staff moving between buildings have been shot at and critically wounded.”
The group added that people injured while attempting to flee “lie dead or wounded in the street as rescue is impossible.”
“With the mortuary shut down, a hundred bodies are piled up and cannot be buried,” Medical Aid for Palestinians said.
Doctors had to hand ventilate critically ill patients as the facility’s emergency power generators shut down.
Israel cut electricity to the territory a month ago as a form of collective punishment prohibited under international law and has refused to allow the transfer of urgently needed fuel to Gaza.
Medical Aid for Palestinians said that more neonatal patients “will die soon unless the power supply is restored.”
The charity added that it had been warning for weeks of the “catastrophic consequences if world leaders fail to protect healthcare in Gaza.”
“Our worst fears are coming true,” the group said.
Martin Griffiths, the UN’s humanitarian chief, said on Saturday that “there can be no justification for acts of war in healthcare facilities, leaving them with no power, food or water, and shooting at patients and civilians trying to flee,” but did not specifically name Israel in his statement.
“This is unconscionable, reprehensible and must stop,” Griffiths added.
Robert Mardini, the director of the International Committee of the Red Cross, used uncharacteristically strong language on Saturday.
He said the humanitarian organization was “shocked and appalled by the images and reports coming from al-Shifa hospital in Gaza.”
“Hospitals, patients, staff and health care must be protected,” Mardini added.Both the US and the UN have helped give Israel the green light for its attacks on hospitals in Gaza’s north.
White House spokesperson John Kirby earlier this week confirmed that the Biden administration has not drawn any red lines for Israel in its purported war on Hamas that has killed thousands of Palestinian civilians:The Biden State Department also refuses to confirm whether the US recognizes that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to Gaza and the West Bank, and won’t say what legal framework it believes applies.
During a press briefing on 9 November, reporter Sam Husseini said “it’s a free fire zone if you’re not going to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
Meanwhile, António Guterres, the UN secretary general, has parroted Israeli government propaganda by calling for “the end of the use of civilians as human shields.”
Guterres gave Israel a pretext to deliberately target civilians and civilian objects by blurring the distinction between civilian and military targets. By doing so, the head of the UN endangered the lives of patients, their family members, medical staff and displaced people.
Israel has repeatedly claimed, without providing credible evidence, that Hamas uses al-Shifa hospital as a command center. Hamas vehemently denies the accusation and has invited Guterres to form an international delegation to visit hospitals in Gaza and refute what it said was Israel’s “lies and blatant fabrications” to justify targeting civilians.
“A collective death sentence”
“Feel for us, we are also human beings,” pleaded Muhammad Rayhan, an injured man being treated at al-Shifa hospital, in footage published by Al Jazeera English on Saturday.Hanan Fayyad, a woman at the hospital, said that her daughter had been paralyzed in an Israeli strike while she was waiting in a queue to buy bread.
Muhammad Abu Salamiya, the director of al-Shifa, said medical staff cannot evacuate “as there are more than 60 patients in the intensive care unit, more than 50 children in the neonatal and pediatric departments, and more than 500 patients in the dialysis departments.”
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel said that with no electricity, water and oxygen, and injured patients left behind at al-Shifa hospital “with no treatment or means of escape,” the situation is no longer a “humanitarian catastrophe – it is a collective death sentence.”
Late Friday, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians remaining in the northern half of Gaza “are struggling to survive” as both safe drinking water and food are scarce.
Now al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City is the only semi-functioning facility able to serve the medical needs of people in Gaza’s north, British-Palestinian surgeon Ghassan Abu Sitta said on Saturday.Abu Sitta said that Israel was targeting schools near al-Ahli, where the hospital grounds had been turned into a makeshift field hospital amid nearby gun battles, tank fire, small arms and machine gun fire.
Abu Sitta said on Friday that doctors were seeing “multiple cases of acute malnutrition and dehydration in young children.”
He added that with the collapse of all four pediatric hospitals in Gaza, “children with chronic illnesses do not have access to specialist medical care.”
“We have had children with diabetes, asthma and autoimmune disease seek medical care at the ER” at al-Ahli hospital, Abu Sitta said.
Ambulances out of fuel
The Palestine Red Crescent Society reported on Saturday that Israeli tanks were 20 meters away from Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City. There was “direct shooting at the hospital, creating a state of extreme panic and fear among 14,000 displaced people,” PRCS said.
The humanitarian group added that only seven out of its 18 ambulances in the northern half of Gaza are currently operational and will be grounded in the coming hours when they run out of fuel.
“Our teams are witnessing numerous casualties and wounded individuals, yet they face challenges reaching them due to Israeli military targeting of ambulance vehicles approaching the affected areas,” PRCS said.
Mohammed Abu Mughaisib, deputy medical coordinator for Doctors Without Borders in Gaza, told The Washington Post that shelling forced medical staff to evacuate from al-Nasr pediatric hospital, leaving five babies in incubators behind.
The director of al-Nasr hospital told The Washington Post that the Israeli military sent the director of al-Rantisi hospital, another pediatric health facility, a map of an evacuation route for hospitals, giving hospital officials five minutes warning before the army would start surrounding the facilities.
Video posted on social media on Friday shows people carrying white flags coming under gunfire as they attempted to leave al-Nasr hospital.
As of late Friday, 20 out of 36 of Gaza’s hospitals were no longer functioning, according to the UN.
The head of a delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza said Friday that “the destruction affecting hospitals in Gaza is becoming unbearable and needs to stop. The lives of thousands of civilians, patients and medical staff are at risk.”
- Operation Al-Aqsa Flood
- Doctors Without Borders
- al-Shifa Hospital
- Mohammed Obeid
- Medical Aid for Palestinians
- Martin Griffiths
- Robert Mardini
- International Committee of the Red Cross
- Sam Husseini
- António Guterres
- Ghassan Abu Sitta
- Palestine Red Crescent Society
- Al-Quds Hospital
- al-Nasr pediatric hospital
- Mohammed Abu Mughaisib