Gaza’s main hospital collapsed on Saturday when Israeli forces surrounded it and a power outage caused the death of a premature baby in an incubator and at least four other patients, according to the hospital director and the Gaza Ministry of Health.
Without fuel to run the generators, Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City was plunged into darkness and its medical equipment stopped working. For weeks – with Israel cutting off fuel and electricity supplies – the hospital relied on backup generators and dwindling supplies of fuel.
Hospital director Dr. Muhammad Abu Salmiya said: “Surgeries must stop.” “Dialysis has stopped and the neonatal unit is in a very tragic situation. A baby died due to lack of oxygen, electricity and heat.”
Medhat Abbas, Director General of the Ministry of Health in Gaza, said that the medical staff had to perform manual artificial respiration on some patients in intensive care for several hours after the ventilators were cut off.
Over the past few days, Israel’s ground invasion of the Strip has penetrated deep into Gaza City, slowly closing in on the hospitals that provided refuge to tens of thousands. Israel says the hospitals protect Hamas’ military operations in the tunnels below.
At Al-Shifa Hospital, thousands of sick, wounded and critically ill displaced people were trapped inside while tanks and Israeli forces surrounded the compounds, and snipers occasionally opened fire, according to the Health Ministry, doctors and some witnesses sheltering inside.
Nearby, intense fighting is taking place at close range between Israeli forces and fighters from Hamas, the Palestinian armed group that controls Gaza.
The Israeli army repeatedly urged patients and people taking shelter in hospitals in Gaza City to be evacuated to the south, away from the urban fighting. Four hospitals in the city were evacuated on Friday.
But some who tried to leave Shifa on Saturday, including a family, were shot by snipers they believed to be Israeli, and at least one person was killed, according to several people at Shifa hospital, including Dr. Abu Salamiya.
Admiral Daniel Hagari, an IDF spokesman, denied on Saturday that Israeli forces had surrounded Al-Shifa Hospital, and said the forces would provide safe passage for people to evacuate along the eastern side of the hospital complex. He added that Israeli forces did not attack the hospital itself, but stressed that Israel is fighting Hamas fighters “who chose to fight next to Al-Shifa Hospital.”
Dr. Nasser Bulbul, head of the premature and neonatal department at Al-Shifa Hospital, said that there are dozens of other premature babies in incubators that are no longer working.
“We have to move the babies with blankets and sheets to another building,” he said, where there is little electricity to run the incubators. He added that it is dangerous even to move from one building to another within the medical complex.
Admiral Hagari said on Saturday evening that the Israeli army would help transport the children from Shifa Hospital, but the hospital director said there were no plans to do so.
“Al-Shifa Hospital staff have requested that we help the children in the pediatric ward tomorrow to reach a safer hospital,” Admiral Hajari said in a televised press conference. “We will provide the necessary assistance”
Dr. Abu Salamiya said afterward: “This talk is completely false.” He said there is no safer hospital or any such coordination.
The Palestinian Red Crescent warned on Saturday that Al-Quds Hospital, another major hospital in Gaza City, was at risk of closure because it had run out of fuel needed to operate electricity generators. The Red Crescent said that the hospital includes 500 patients.
The Red Crescent said that Israeli tanks and military vehicles surrounded Al-Quds Hospital and bombed the building.
Mahmoud Abu Harbid, a resident of Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, has been in Al-Shifa Hospital for more than a month. He said on Saturday that his house was subjected to an Israeli air strike early in the war, wounding his brother, and that they fled to the hospital to receive treatment and shelter.
He said: “Everyone is on top of each other, the displaced and the wounded, even the medical staff.” “They are trying to save this person and that person, but they cannot. There is no electricity, medicine or anything,” he added.
“People are afraid, but we pray that God will protect us.”
Rawan Sheikh Ahmed And Aaron Puckerman Contributed to reports.
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