Gaza Hospitals Near Collapse as Fighting Rages Nearby


The Gaza Health Ministry said that at least five wounded patients died on Saturday at the hospital, including a premature baby in an incubator, as a result of the power outage. Without fuel to run generators, the hospital has been plunged into darkness, the Health Ministry and the hospital’s administrator said.

“Surgeries have had to stop,” said the hospital’s director, Dr. Mohammed Abu Salmiya. “Kidney dialysis has stopped and the neonatal unit is in a very dire situation. A baby has died because of lack of oxygen and electricity and heat.”

Israeli tanks and troops have surrounded several hospitals in the territory and attacked them, with snipers occasionally firing off shots, according to the Health Ministry, doctors and some witnesses sheltering inside. The Israeli military published a statement on Saturday denying any siege or shooting at Al-Shifa, but confirming clashes between Israeli forces and Hamas in the area.

The Israeli military has accused Hamas of operating an underground command center below Al-Shifa, using it as a shield. The hospital’s administration and Hamas have denied that. Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, an Israeli military spokesman, told reporters Friday night that the Israeli military “does not fire on hospitals,” but added, “If we see Hamas terrorists firing from hospitals, we’ll do what we need to do.”

At four hospitals adjacent to one another in northern Gaza — the Rantisi children’s hospital, Al-Nasr Hospital and two other medical centers specializing in optometry and psychiatry — Palestinians have managed to evacuate, Yousef Abu al-Rish, the head of the Health Ministry in Gaza, said on Saturday. Doctors had resisted evacuating for days as Israeli forces advanced.

“The patients were forced out into the streets — the ones who were left — and dispersed,” said Steve Sosebee of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, which helps operate an oncology ward at the children’s hospital. “There was no coordinated effort to move them south. Everyone had to fend for themselves.”

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, said Saturday at a news conference that Israeli forces had for weeks called for hospitals to evacuate in northern Gaza. Those warnings were repeated at the children’s hospital this past week, according to an Israeli military officer who helped oversee the operation and who spoke on condition of anonymity under military protocol.

After three days, Israel decided to change tack, the military officer said. Troops advanced toward the hospital and surrounded it, while opening a safe corridor for people to leave, he said.

The grim conditions of Gaza City are in part the result of an Israeli siege that has cut off water, food, electricity and fuel for weeks. Israel imposed the siege days after Hamas attacked Israel, killing about 1,200 people and seizing hundreds of hostages, according to the Israeli authorities.


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