Gaza’s main hospital collapsed on Saturday as Israeli forces surrounded it and a power outage led to the death of a premature baby in an incubator and at least four other patients, according to the hospital director and Gaza’s Health Ministry.
Without fuel to run the generators, Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City has been plunged into darkness and its medical equipment has stopped working. For weeks, as Israel cut off fuel and electricity supplies, the hospital has relied on backup generators and a dwindling supply of fuel.
“The surgeries had to stop,” said hospital director Dr. Mohammed Abu Salmiya. “Kidney dialysis has been stopped and the neonatal unit is in a very serious situation. “A baby has died from lack of oxygen, electricity and heat.”
Medical staff had to perform manual artificial respiration on some patients in intensive care for many hours after the blackout turned off ventilators, said Medhat Abbas, director general of Gaza’s Health Ministry.
In recent days, Israel’s ground invasion of the territory has deepened in Gaza City, slowly closing in on hospitals that have provided shelter to tens of thousands. Israel says hospitals are protecting Hamas military operations in underground tunnels.
In Al-Shifa, thousands of seriously ill and injured patients and displaced people have been trapped inside as Israeli tanks and troops surround the compounds, with snipers occasionally firing, according to the Health Ministry, doctors and some witnesses sheltering in the inside.
Intense hand-to-hand combat is taking place nearby between Israeli troops and fighters from Hamas, the Palestinian armed group that controls Gaza.
The Israeli military has repeatedly urged patients and people sheltering in hospitals in Gaza City to evacuate to the south, away from urban fighting. Four hospitals in the city were evacuated on Friday.
But some of those who tried to leave Al-Shifa on Saturday, including a family, were shot by snipers they believed to be Israelis, and at least one person was killed, according to several people at Al-Shifa Hospital, including Dr. Abu Salmiya. .
On Saturday, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, an Israeli military spokesman, denied that Israeli forces had laid siege to Al-Shifa and said troops would provide a safe passage for people to evacuate along the eastern side of the hospital complex. He said Israeli troops were not attacking the hospital itself, but confirmed that Israel was fighting Hamas fighters “who choose to fight alongside Al-Shifa hospital.”
Al-Shifa has dozens of other premature babies in incubators that no longer work, said Dr. Nasser Bulbul, head of the hospital’s premature and neonatal department.
“We have to transport the babies in blankets and sheets to another building,” she said, where there was some electricity to power the incubators. He added that it was dangerous to even move from one building to another within the medical complex.
Admiral Hagari said Saturday night that the Israeli military would help move the babies out of Al-Shifa, but the hospital director said there were no plans for that.
“Shifa Hospital staff have requested that tomorrow we help babies from the pediatric department reach a safer hospital,” Admiral Hagari said in a televised news conference. “We will provide the necessary assistance.”
“These words are completely false,” Dr. Abu Salmiya later said. There is no safer hospital or any such coordination, he said.
On Saturday, the Palestinian Red Crescent warned that Al-Quds Hospital, another major hospital in Gaza City, was at risk of closing because it was running out of fuel for power generators. The hospital has 500 patients, the Red Crescent said.
Israeli tanks and military vehicles have surrounded Al-Quds hospital and are shelling the building, the Red Crescent said.
Mahmoud Abu Harbed, a resident of Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, has been in Al-Shifa hospital for more than a month. He said Saturday that his home was hit by Israeli airstrikes at the start of the war, wounding his brother, and that they fled to the hospital for treatment and shelter.
“Everyone is on top of each other, the displaced, the injured, even the medical staff,” he said. “They try to save this person and that person, but they can’t. There is no electricity or medicine or anything,” he added.
“People are afraid, but we pray that God protects us.”
Rawan Sheikh Ahmad and Aaron Boxerman contributed reports.