© Reuters. A satellite image shows Al-Shifa Hospital, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Gaza November 7, 2023. Maxar technologies/document via REUTERS
By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Dan Williams
GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Gaza’s largest hospital has stopped functioning and the number of deaths among patients is rising, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Sunday, as the Israeli assault continues in the strip controlled by Hamas.
Hospitals in the northern Palestinian enclave, including the al-Shifa compound, are blocked by Israeli forces and are barely able to treat those there, with three newborns dead in Shifa and more. Others threatened by power outages amid intense fighting nearby, according to medical staff.
Israel says it is targeting Palestinian Hamas militants who launched deadly attacks in southern Israel on October 7, and says the group has command centers under and near hospitals.
The WHO managed to speak to health workers in Shifa, who described a “dire and perilous” situation, with constant shooting and shelling exacerbating already critical circumstances, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“Tragically, the number of patient deaths has increased significantly,” he said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, adding that Shifa “no longer functioned as a hospital.”
Tedros joined other senior United Nations officials in calling for an immediate ceasefire.
“The world cannot remain silent while hospitals, which should be shelters, turn into scenes of death, devastation and despair,” he said.
Israel says it is trying to free more than 200 hostages taken by Hamas militants on October 7 and says hospitals should be evacuated.
The European Union condemned Hamas for using “hospitals and civilians as human shields” in Gaza, while also urging Israel to exercise “maximum restraint” in protecting civilians.
“These hostilities are having a serious impact on hospitals and taking a terrible toll among civilians and medical personnel,” European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement issued on behalf of the bloc on Sunday. from 27 countries.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Hamas was using hospitals and other civilian facilities to house fighters and weapons, which he said was a violation of the laws of war .
“The United States does not want to see firefights in hospitals where innocent patients receiving medical care are caught in the crossfire and we have had active consultations with the Israel Defense Forces on this matter,” Sullivan told CBS News.
Israel declared war on Hamas more than a month ago after militants went on a rampage in southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli officials.
Palestinian officials said Friday that 11,078 Gazans have been killed since then in air and artillery strikes, about 40 percent of them children.
The Israeli military response has also sparked anger, with hundreds of thousands of people protesting in capitals around the world to demand a ceasefire.
Israel’s supporters, including in Washington, say a ceasefire would allow Hamas to regroup and prepare to launch more attacks, but the Biden administration has pushed Israel to allow pauses in fighting to allow civilians to flee and deliver aid.
US President Joe Biden, who spoke with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on Sunday about developments in Gaza, agreed that all hostages held by Hamas must be released. without further delay,” the White House said in a statement.
Biden “unequivocally” condemned Hamas’ holding of hostages, including many young children, including a 3-year-old American citizen whose parents were killed by the group on October 7, the White House said.
The conflict has also raised fears of a wider conflagration. Lebanon-based Hezbollah, which shares Iranian backers with Hamas, has exchanged missile attacks with Israel, and other Iranian-backed groups in Iraq and Syria have launched at least 40 separate drone and missile attacks. rockets against American forces.
The United States carried out two airstrikes in Syria on Sunday against Iran-aligned groups, a U.S. defense official told Reuters, in what appears to be the latest response to the attacks.
BABIES AT RISK
The Israeli army said it offered to evacuate the newborns and placed 300 liters of fuel at the entrance to Shifa on Saturday evening, but both moves were blocked by Hamas.
Hamas denied refusing the fuel and said the hospital was under the authority of the Gaza Ministry of Health, adding that the amount of fuel offered by Israel, according to Israel, was “not enough to operate the (hospital) generators for more than half an hour.”
Ashraf Al-Qidra, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry, said that of 45 babies placed in incubators in Shifa, three had already died.
A plastic surgeon in Shifa said the bombing of the building housing the incubators forced him to line up premature babies on regular beds, using what little energy was available to heat the air conditioning.
“We expect to lose more every day,” said Dr. Ahmed El Mokhallalati.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said the Gaza Strip’s second-largest hospital, Al-Quds, was also out of service, with staff struggling to treat those already there, with little medicine, food and water.
“The Al Quds hospital has been cut off from the world for the last six to seven days. No entry, no exit,” said Tommaso Della Longa, spokesperson for the International Federation of Societies. Red Cross and Red Crescent.