Sunday, February 25, 2024

On Saturday, the main hospital of Gaza City, Al-Shifa, was collapsing as Israeli forces surrounded it, causing a power outage that resulted in the deaths of a premature baby in an incubator and at least four other patients, according to the hospital director and the Gaza health ministry.

The absence of fuel for generators caused the hospital to be plunged into darkness and its medical equipment to stop working. For weeks, as Israel cut off fuel and electricity supplies, the hospital has been relying on backup generators and a dwindling fuel supply.

Dr. Mohammed Abu Salmiya, the hospital’s director, stated, “Surgeries have had to stop. Kidney dialysis has stopped and the neonatal unit is in a very dire situation. A baby has died because of lack of oxygen, electricity, and heat.” According to Dr. Medhat Abbas, the director-general of Gaza’s health ministry, medical staff had to manually perform artificial respiration on some patients in intensive care for many hours after the outage shut down ventilators.

Israel’s ground invasion of the territory has gradually closed in on the hospitals in Gaza City, providing refuge for tens of thousands. As a result, four hospitals were evacuated on Friday. Israeli tanks and troops have surrounded the compounds, with some witnesses sheltering inside reporting intense, close-quarter combat between Israeli troops and fighters from Hamas in the vicinity. Though the Israeli military has urged patients and those sheltering at hospitals in Gaza City to evacuate to the south away from the urban combat, some who attempted to leave Al-Shifa on Saturday were shot at by snipers they believed to be Israeli, resulting in at least one fatality.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military spokesman, denied that Israeli forces had besieged Al-Shifa, stating that troops would provide a safe passage for evacuation along the hospital compound’s eastern side. He acknowledged that Israel was battling Hamas fighters near Al-Shifa Hospital, but emphasized that it was not attacking the hospital itself.

Dr. Nasser Bulbul, the leader of the hospital’s premature and neonatal department, said there were dozens of other premature babies in incubators that were no longer functioning, requiring the dangerous transport of these babies to another building with a bit of electricity to power incubators. Despite Admiral Hagari stating that the Israeli military would help transfer babies out of Al-Shifa, the hospital director stated there were no actual plans for that and called the statement “completely false.”

Furthermore, Al-Quds Hospital, another major hospital in Gaza City, was at risk of closing down due to a shortage of fuel to power generators. The hospital, housing 500 patients, had been surrounded by Israeli tanks and military vehicles, with the building reportedly being shelled as well.

Amidst these dire circumstances, Mahmoud Abu Harbed, a resident of Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, sought treatment and shelter at Al-Shifa Hospital after his home was hit by Israeli airstrikes, wounding his brother. Speaking about the situation, he described the overcrowding of the hospital with displaced and wounded people, along with the lack of electricity and medicine to provide necessary care.

Rawan Sheikh Ahmad and Aaron Boxerman contributed to this reporting.

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