By Tanupriya Singh and Ana Vračar / Peoples Dispatch
The Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza, the largest medical facility in the besieged strip, was forced to suspend its operations on the morning of November 11 after it ran out of fuel. Patients have already begun to die as Israeli occupation forces have laid siege to the hospital.
Israeli snipers and drones positioned all around the hospital have opened fire at any sign of movement.
Abed Ghazal, a health activist from Palestine with the People’s Health Movement, said on Saturday, that it is “astounding that hospitals are being treated as legitimate targets.” As Ghazal provided updates, the people working at Al-Shifa, as well as those sheltering there, remained under direct attack.
Health workers at Al-Shifa are now forced to provide care with access to virtually no medical supplies at all, and patients are forced to cram in the corridors, Ghazal said. As many nurses and doctors have spent weeks in the hospitals without stopping, with little news about families and friends, the pressure is now getting worse.
While Al-Shifa’s health workers vowed to remain as long as patients needed care, they have criticized the international response to what has been happening around the hospital. The international reaction to the attacks on Al-Shifa and other hospital complexes in Gaza is far from enough, Ghazal said, and it should be denounced for what it is.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Al-Shifa’s director, Muhammad Abu Salmiya had said, “Patients are dying by the minute, victims and wounded are also dying”, confirming that one baby in an incubator had died, as well as a young man in the intensive care unit.
Gaza’s Deputy Health Minister, Dr. Youssef Abu Alreesh later told the news publication that all generators and power sources in the hospital were off. There are 39 newborn babies in incubators at Al-Shifa, now kept alive by manual support as both generators and solar panels have become non-operational.
Shortly after the power blackout on Saturday, Al-Shifa’s yard was also struck by shelling, causing a fire. Ambulances have been prevented from entering or leaving the hospital complex.
The IOF has cordoned off the hospital complex, while buildings in its vicinity have been shelled non-stop for over 12 hours as of Saturday morning. “Any moving person within the compound is targeted”, Salmiya said, adding that one member of the medical personnel had been shot and killed by a sniper as he tried to reach the babies in the incubator.
“A few families tried to leave but they were targeted, now they are lying dead outside the hospital”, Alreesh told Al Jazeera, adding that the hospital’s intensive care unit had also been hit by mortar fire.
Al-Shifa no longer has electricity and internet, and has been left without fuel, food, water, and medical supplies. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) stated early on Saturday that it was unable to contact any of its staff inside Al-Shifa, adding that there were patients in the hospital who were in critical condition and unable to move.
Tens of thousands of people displaced by the Israeli bombardment who were seeking shelter in the hospital yard are currently also trapped.
Shifa Hospital today. A camp for the internally displaced, over 50 thousand pic.twitter.com/HAJyHJmCQj
— Ghassan Abu Sitta (@GhassanAbuSitt1) November 9, 2023
Palestinian Health Ministry’s Director-General, Mounir Al-Barsh has stated that a mass grave would have to be dug at Al-Shifa on Saturday to bury the bodies of 100 people who have died at the hospital– “We cannot move within or outside the perimeter of the hospital. We are surrounded, we cannot bury our dead.”
Israel had bombed the Al Shifa Hospital at least five times between November 9 and 10, as confirmed by the spokesperson of the Palestinian Health Ministry, Ashraf al-Qudra. At least 13 people were killed after Israel bombed Al-Shifa’s obstetrics department and courtyard early on Friday.
The Israeli forces also dropped internationally-banned white phosphorus bombs on neighborhoods around Al-Shifa on Friday, the Wafa News Agency reported.
Two people were also killed in an attack in the vicinity of the Al-Nasr Medical Center. The attack forced the closureof the facility’s children’s hospital which is the sole remaining specialized pediatric care unit in North Gaza, according to the World Health Organization.
In a separate statement on Friday night, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) condemned a direct attack by occupying forces on Al-Quds hospital, including the direct firing of live ammunition at its intensive care unit (ICU). The attack killed one displaced person and injured 28 others.
As of Friday, the hospital had remained isolated for the fifth consecutive day amid shortages of food, water and medical supplies, due to continuous Israeli shelling destroying buildings and streets in the vicinity, and cutting off access routes to Al-Quds.
The head of the Al-Nasr hospital and the Al Rantisi Pediatric Hospital, Mustafa al-Kahlout, told CNN that the facilities were “completely surrounded” and that Israeli tanks were positioned outside. Al-Rantisi Hospital was also directly hit on November 9, which caused fires and damage, according to an update by the UN OCHA. The Al Awda hospital in Jabalia was also bombarded on November 10, in what is being called a “day of war against hospitals”.
According to an update published by the UN OCHA on November 10, 20 out Gaza’s 36 hospitals are no longer functioning because of Israel’s attacks. Israel has killed at least 11,078 Palestinians since the start of its genocidal bombardment of Gaza on October 7. Another 27,490 people have been injured during this period.