More than 20 patients died at Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital amid Israeli raid

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A spokesperson from the Ministry of Health reports a minimum of 24 casualties at Gaza’s major hospital attributed to electricity shortages.

Medics and patients are pictured at al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on November 10, 2023 [File: Khader al-Zanoun/AFP]
Medics and patients are pictured at al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on November 10, 2023 [File: Khader al-Zanoun/AFP]

In the past two days, more than 20 patients have lost their lives at Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital. Israeli forces have been conducting raids at the hospital, leading to a dire situation. The hospital has been without power since Saturday due to a fuel shortage, resulting in the malfunction of crucial medical equipment.

The Palestinian health ministry reported on Friday that 24 patients died within the last 48 hours due to the power cuts. Health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra emphasized the impact of the power outage on vital medical equipment, stating that patients across various departments were affected.

Muhammad Abu Salmiya, the director of al-Shifa Hospital, informed Al Jazeera that 22 patients passed away overnight. The hospital has become a focal point of Israel’s ground offensive in northern Gaza, with special forces searching the facility since Wednesday.

Israel has claimed that Hamas fighters are using a tunnel complex beneath the hospital for attacks, an assertion repeatedly denied by Hamas and hospital officials. Israeli forces reported finding weapons and an underground structure they labeled a “Hamas tunnel shaft” after two days of searching.

The Palestinian health ministry highlighted the destruction of medical services in the hospital, which was sheltering around 2,300 patients, staff, and displaced Palestinians, according to UN estimates, before the Israeli troops entered.

Al-Shifa staff revealed that a premature baby died on Friday, marking the first infant death since the Israeli forces entered. Three infants had died in the preceding days while the hospital was surrounded by Israeli forces.

Muhammad Abu Salmiya described the medical compound as a “big prison” and a “mass grave” for those inside. He emphasized the desperate situation, with no power, food, or water, leading to a loss of lives every passing minute. Over the past three days, the hospital has been under siege, intensifying the humanitarian crisis.

More than half of Gaza’s hospitals are no longer functional due to combat, damage or shortages [File: Israel military/AP]
More than half of Gaza’s hospitals are no longer functional due to combat, damage or shortages [File: Israel military/AP]

Dire lack of fuel

Last month, Israel implemented a strict blockade and initiated a military assault on Gaza in response to an attack by Hamas on southern Israel, which reportedly resulted in the deaths of approximately 1,200 people and the abduction of around 240 others, according to Israeli officials.

The ongoing Israeli air and ground assault, now in its seventh week, has claimed the lives of more than 12,000 people, including 5,000 children, as reported by Palestinian authorities in Gaza. The siege has had severe consequences, limiting access to essential supplies such as food, water, electricity, and fuel for the 2.3 million residents of the Gaza Strip. Aid agencies are warning of a looming humanitarian crisis in the territory.

In response to a US request, Israel has agreed to allow two fuel trucks a day into Gaza. However, this falls short of the UN’s assessment, which indicated that the shortages had disrupted aid deliveries, putting people at risk of starvation. The approved amount is only half of what the UN deemed necessary to carry out vital functions, including fueling water systems, hospitals, bakeries, and aid delivery trucks.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) reported that its aid trucks were unable to enter Gaza from Egypt for a second consecutive day on Friday due to fuel shortages and a near-complete communications blackout that began on Thursday. UNRWA expressed concerns about its ability to manage or coordinate humanitarian convoys in light of the telecommunication outage.

[Al Jazeera]
[Al Jazeera]

Near total collapse

More than half of Gaza’s hospitals are no longer operational due to the impact of combat, damages, or shortages. The recent Israeli raid on al-Shifa Hospital resulted in extensive damage to crucial units such as radiology, burns, and dialysis, as reported by Hamas.

The situation for Palestinian civilians is rapidly worsening, according to the UN’s warning. Over 1.5 million people have been internally displaced, and the blockade imposed by Israel on the territory is pushing civilians towards the immediate threat of starvation, stated Cindy McCain, the head of the World Food Programme.

In south Gaza, UNRWA revealed that 70 percent of the population lacks access to clean water, leading to the distressing sight of raw sewage flowing on the streets. Philippe Lazzarini, the chief of UNRWA, described children taking refuge at a UN school who are desperately pleading for a sip of water or a loaf of bread. The humanitarian crisis in the region is reaching alarming proportions.

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