TEL AVIV – Newborns and other patients are dying in Gaza’s largest hospital due to power outages and running out of resources, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, which said at least 35 babies born prematurely face the possibility of “death at any moment.”
Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City has been out of service since Saturday morning, according to the ministry, due to heavy shelling and intense fighting outside the complex, which led to a power outage amid a fuel shortage.
The Ministry of Health said in a statement that three children died over the weekend, in addition to more than 10 other patients. Mounir Al-Barsh, Director General of the Ministry of Health, spoke about the deaths in a telephone interview and confirmed that hundreds of patients are still in the hospital.
Dr. Marwan Abu Saada, a surgeon at the hospital and head of international cooperation at the Ministry of Health, said on Saturday that an infant died “because we did not have electricity.” He confirmed the deaths of two other children on Sunday in a phone call.
He said another 36 were at risk: “If they remain in this state, they will all die.”
The challenges facing Gaza’s hospitals continue to mount: as fighting intensifies, ambulances have come under fire, electricity has been cut off, and bodies have piled up amid a massive increase in the number of patients.
The majority of the Strip’s hospitals are out of service, according to the Palestinian Minister of Health. Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City joined the list on Sunday, according to what the Palestine Red Crescent Society announced, and is no longer operating.
The Israeli army announced on Sunday that it would open evacuation routes from Al-Shifa Hospital and two other hospitals in Gaza City: Al-Rantisi and Al-Nasr. The Israeli army said in a statement that the soldiers “opened and secured a corridor that enables the civilian population to evacuate on foot and by ambulance” from the three facilities.
IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said in a press conference on Saturday that workers at Al-Shifa Hospital “requested that we help the children in the pediatric ward tomorrow to get to a safer hospital.”
Asked on Sunday whether the Israeli military had helped hospital workers move children to a safer hospital, an army spokesman said it had asked civilians in Gaza to temporarily evacuate to the southern Gaza Valley, “to stay away from areas witnessing intense fighting.”
Abu Saada said he was not aware of anyone in the hospital, whether patients or otherwise, leaving the facility on Sunday. He said the fighting abroad made it impossible. Likewise, Dr. Ahmed Al-Makhalati, a plastic surgeon at Al-Shifa Hospital, said he was not aware of anyone who had managed to evacuate yet.
Meanwhile, images of the recovery show an increasingly terrible scene. Dr. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor who has worked in Gaza hospitals for years and is based in Cairo, shared a photo sent to him by Abu Saada during a rare moment of internet access.
The photo shows children wrapped in blankets and lined up in rows on hospital beds. At least one appeared to have duct tape on his face, which is typically used to keep oxygen tubes in place.
“The Palestinian doctors and nurses did everything they could to save their lives,” Gilbert said, adding that he was in regular contact with staff at Al-Shifa Hospital.
Meanwhile, similar photos sent by Al-Makhalati show children lying side-by-side with ribbons and tubes tied to their faces. He said those in the neonatal unit should be removed from incubators that cannot continue to operate. Al-Makhalati said that to keep the children warm, doctors transferred them to a temperature-controlled operating room.
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