Gaza’s main hospital is no longer functioning, according to the World Health Organization, which warned of a “dire and perilous” situation for hundreds of patients and displaced people trapped inside as Israeli troops battle Hamas fighters nearby.
The hospital, Al-Shifa, and other medical centers in Gaza City had been struggling for weeks to maintain operations as supplies of fuel and medicine dwindled. In recent days, Israeli tanks and troops have drawn close to Al-Shifa and close combat has raged nearby. Patients have been dying because of a lack of power, according to doctors and Gazan health officials.
The World Health Organization said on Sunday that three days “without electricity, without water and with very poor internet” had severely hurt Al-Shifa’s ability to provide care. It cited constant gunfire and bombings in the area, and said patient deaths had increased significantly.
“Regrettably, the hospital is not functioning as a hospital anymore,” the agency’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in a statement.
The health ministry in Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, said that at least six wounded patients had died at the hospital on Saturday as a result of a power outage, including two premature babies. Without fuel to run generators, the hospital has been plunged into darkness, the ministry and the hospital’s administrator said.
Israeli security officials say that Hamas has built a vast command complex under the hospital, making it a legitimate military target. Hamas has denied the allegations, as has Al-Shifa’s director, Dr. Mohammed Abu Salmiya, who has called them “untrue.”
In recent days, Israeli soldiers have surrounded at least one other hospital in northern Gaza, stepping up their push to empty the facilities, according to Israeli military officials, as fighting around them intensifies.
At Al-Rantisi Specialized Hospital for Children, the only medical center with a pediatric cancer ward in the strip, Dr. Bakr Gaoud, the head of the hospital, said Israeli forces moved in late last week, damaging the ground floor and destroying several vehicles before providing maps that showed a safe evacuation route, which patients and staff soon used.
A second hospital, Al-Nasr, was similarly emptied out by Israel on Friday, and the health ministry reported strikes against other hospitals over the weekend.
At Al-Quds Hospital, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said on Monday that “heavy gunfire” was continuing nearby and that “shelling and violent explosions were heard in the area.” A convoy of vehicles that had been traveling to Al-Quds in an effort to evacuate patients and medical staff could not reach the hospital because of the bombardment, the agency said.