Gaza hospital in 'dire and perilous' state with patients and premature babies at risk

There are fears 36 premature babies at Gaza's largest hospital could die, while it's being reported a second major hospital is effectively out of service

Gaza's largest hospital is in a "dire and perilous" situation with 36 premature babies at risk of dying, the World Health Organisation has said, as both electricity and water have run out.

The WHO said constant gunfire and bombings have "exacerbated the already critical circumstances" and the hospital is no longer functioning as it should.

Three premature babies have died in Al-Shifa hospital and 36 more could die after the last working generator ran out of fuel, according to doctors inside.

It comes as Gaza's second biggest medical centre has also been reported effectively out of service, with doctors using torchlight to treat patients.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to reject urgent international calls for a cease-fire unless it includes the release of all the nearly 240 hostages captured by Hamas in its attacks on October 7.

Israel, without providing evidence, has accused Hamas of concealing a command post inside and under the compound, allegations denied by Hamas and hospital staff.

Israeli forces say they have agreed to evacuate babies from Gaza's largest hospital as fighting continues, but doctors in Gaza dispute the claims

Dr Nidal Abu Hadrous, a neurosurgeon working at the Shifa Hospital told ITV News they are surrounded by "continuous bombing" and there is "still no safe corridor" for patients to get out. "Urgent intervention to save the staff and the patients is required," he added.

Dr Marwan Abusada, Head of Surgery, told ITV News some of the people who tried to flee from the building over the weekend had been shot in the street, with some killed.

Medical Aid for Palestinians, a U.K.-based charity that has supported Shifa's neonatal intensive care unit for years, questioned claims by Israel that babies are being rescued.

“The transfer of critically ill neonates is a complex and technical process,” CEO Melanie Ward said in a statement. “With ambulances unable to reach the hospital...and no hospital with capacity to receive them, there is no indication of how this can be done safely.” The only safe option is for Israel to stop its assault and allow fuel to reach the hospital, Ward said. The Health Ministry said there are 1,500 patients at Shifa, along with 1,500 medical personnel and between 15,000 and 20,000 people seeking shelter.

Physicians for Human Rights Israel, an organisation based in Jaffa, described the picture in Shifa as "no longer of a humanitarian catastrophe" but a "collective death sentence".

Elsewhere, the Palestinian Red Crescent rescue service said another Gaza City hospital, Al-Quds, had shut down after running out of fuel. The site is "no longer operational" the group said.

Gaza's sole power plant was forced to shut down a month ago, and Israel has barred any fuel imports, saying Hamas would use them for military purposes.

A spokesperson for the Red Crescent said 6,000 people, including displaced families, patients, and medical staff, remained trapped in the hospital.

Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel on Sunday. Credit: AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected growing international calls for a ceasefire.

The Israeli PM said a ceasefire would only be possible if all of the hostages, believed to be around 240, taken by Hamas during the October 7 attacks were released. The attacks killed at least 1,200 people, mostly civilians, in Israel.

Since then more than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza. At least 5,000 children are estimated to have been killed, with more than 4,000 reported dead and around 1,400 missing. 

The World Health Organisation has said it lost communication with its contacts at Al-Shifa.

The group said it had "grave concerns for the safety of the health workers, hundreds of sick and injured patients, including babies on life support and displaced people who remain inside the hospital."

Israel’s military confirmed clashes outside the hospital, but Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, a spokesman, denied Al-Shifa was under siege.

He said troops will assist Sunday in moving babies treated there and said "we are speaking directly and regularly" with hospital staff.

Netanyahu said the responsibility for any harm to civilians lies with Hamas, and that while Israel has urged civilians to leave combat zones, "Hamas is doing everything it can to prevent them from leaving."

Palestinians mourn their relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, in the hospital in Khan Younis. Credit: AP

In the UK, around 300,000 people joined a march in London on Saturday calling for a ceasefire - the biggest demonstration in the capital since the war began.

Israel has come under mounting international pressure, even from its closest ally, the United States, as the war enters a sixth week.

A 57-nation gathering of Muslim and Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia on Saturday called for the war to end.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...