Gaza hospital ‘not functioning’ amid Israeli assault
Nidal al-Mughrabi and Maayan Lubell |
The largest hospital in Gaza has ceased to function and fatalities among patients are rising, the head of the World Health Organisation says, as a fierce Israeli assault continues in the Hamas-controlled strip.
Hospitals in the north of the Palestinian enclave, including the al-Shifa complex, are blockaded by Israeli forces and barely able to care for those inside.
Three newborns are dead and more are at risk from power outages amid intense fighting nearby, according to medical staff.
Israel says it is homing in on Palestinian Hamas militants who launched deadly attacks in southern Israel on October 7, and says the group has command centres under and near the hospitals.
The WHO managed to speak to health professionals at al-Shifa, who described a “dire and perilous” situation with constant gunfire and bombing exacerbating the already critical situation, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday.
“Tragically, the number of patient fatalities has increased significantly,” he said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, adding that al-Shifa was “not functioning as a hospital anymore”.
Tedros joined other top United Nations officials in calling for an immediate ceasefire.
“The world cannot stand silent while hospitals, which should be safe havens, are transformed into scenes of death, devastation, and despair,” he said.
The president of Indonesia, home to the world’s biggest Muslim population, also called for a ceasefire ahead of meeting US President Joe Biden in Washington on Monday.
“A ceasefire must be implemented soon, we also must accelerate and increase the amount of humanitarian aid, and we must begin peace negotiations,” President Joko Widodo said in a video recorded after he took part in an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Riyadh.
He said the world seemed “helpless” in the face of the suffering of the Palestinians. The extraordinary joint Islamic-Arab summit also urged the International Criminal Court to investigate “war crimes and crimes against humanity that Israel is committing” in the Palestinian territories.
Israel says it is trying to free the more than 200 hostages taken by Hamas militants on October 7 and says the hospitals should be evacuated.
The European Union condemned Hamas for using “hospitals and civilians as human shields” in Gaza, while also urging Israel to show “maximum restraint” to protect civilians.
Israel declared war on Hamas more than a month ago after militants rampaged through southern Israel, killing about 1200 people, most of them civilians, according to Israeli officials.
Palestinian officials said on Friday that 11,078 Gaza residents had been killed in air and artillery strikes since then, around 40 per cent of them children.
Biden, who spoke on Sunday with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani about developments in Gaza, agreed that all hostages held by Hamas must be released “without further delay”, the White House said in a statement.
The United States carried out two air strikes in Syria against Iran-aligned groups on Sunday, a US defence official told Reuters, in what appeared to be the latest response to the attacks.
Israel’s military said it had offered to evacuate newborn babies and had placed 300 litres of fuel at al-Shifa’s entrance on Saturday night, but both gestures had been blocked by Hamas
Hamas denied that it refused the fuel and said the hospital was under the authority of Gaza’s Health Ministry, adding that the amount of fuel Israel said it offered was “not enough to operate the (hospital’s) generators for more than half an hour”.
Ashraf Al-Qidra, spokesperson for the Health Ministry, said that of 45 babies in incubators at al-Shifa, three had already died.Reuters