Babies and patients stranded at Gaza's largest hospital amid Hamas-Israeli fighting

Fears are growing over premature babies in Gaza's biggest hospital as fuel supplies run out

  • Doctors are fighting to keep 36 premature babies alive in Al-Shifa hospital after incubators were turned off when electricity supplies ran out.

  • Israel's Defence Force (IDF) said it delivered fuel to power the medical centre but Hamas has blocked people receiving it.

  • The "only option" for babies and patients is for the hospital to have access to fuel, a charity says.

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserted that “100 or so” people had been evacuated from Shifa and Israel had created safe corridors.

Fighting outside of hospitals in Gaza has forced thousands to flee from the last shelters in the territory, leaving the critically wounded and newborns with dwindling supplies, health officials have said.

As Israeli troops encircled Gaza's Shifa Hospital over the weekend, thousands fled, while hundreds of patients and displaced people remained, according to officials.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Shifa “is not functioning as a hospital anymore.”

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

On Monday, the military released footage of a children’s hospital that its forces moved into over the weekend, showing weapons it said it found inside, as well as rooms in the basement where it believes the militants were holding some of the around 240 hostages they abducted during the initial attack.

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

Mohammed Zaqout, director of hospitals in Gaza, said that Israel’s military shelled the oxygen department at Shifa and the hospital is now relying on its remaining oxygen bottles.

Another hospital in Gaza City, Al-Quds, was forced to shut down on Sunday because it ran out of fuel.

The Palestinian Red Crescent, which operates the facility, said Israeli forces are stationed nearby and that preparations are being made to evacuate some 6,000 patients, medics and displaced people.

Israel's Defence Force (IDF) has urged Palestinians to flee south on foot through what it calls safe corridors.

But its purported drive to separate civilians from Hamas militants has come at a heavy cost, with more than two thirds of the territory’s population of 2.3 million having already fled their homes, with no place to go.

US President Joe Biden said on Monday that Shifa "must be protected."

Dozens of premature babies are at risk of dying in Gaza's largest hospital as doctors describe the situation inside as 'dire and perilous'. Credit: AP

Babies die as incubators forced of due to fuel and electricity shortages

Three premature babies have died in Shifa hospital and 36 more could die after the last working generator ran out of fuel on Saturday, according to medical personnel inside.

Newborns are being wrapped in foil and placed next to hot water in a desperate bid to keep them alive, Al-Shifa hospital's director told CNN.

The IDF said troops would assist in moving babies, but Medical Aid for Palestinians, a UK-based charity that has supported Shifa's neonatal intensive care unit, said transferring critically ill infants is complex.

“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," CEO Melanie Ward said.

She added the only option is for Israel to stop its assault and allow fuel into the hospital.

The IDF said it placed 300 litres of fuel near Shifa hospital overnight for an emergency generator to power incubators, but said Hamas prevented the hospital from receiving the fuel.

Gaza's Health Ministry spokesperson disputed the account and also told Al Jazeera the fuel would not be enough to operate the generator for an hour.

“This is a mockery towards the patients and children,” Ashraf al-Qidra said.

Striking continued across Gaza over the weekend. Credit: AP

EU nations condemn Hamas as use of hospitals and civilians as 'human shields'

The 27 European Union nations have jointly condemned Hamas for what they described as the use of hospitals and civilians as “human shields”.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said that at the same time, the bloc asked Israel “for maximum restraint in targeting in order to avoid human casualties.”

At a meeting of the bloc’s foreign affairs ministers, Borrell brandished a statement he issued on behalf of the 27 nations as a show of unity following weeks of often contrasting statements on how the group should address the conflict.

Aid situation increasingly dire as millions are displaced

The international community has pushed for temporary pauses that would allow for wider distribution of badly needed aid to civilians in the territory, where conditions are increasingly dire.

Israel has only agreed to brief daily periods during which civilians can flee ground combat in northern Gaza and head south on foot along two main roads.

But it continues to strike what it says are militant targets across southern Gaza, often killing women and children.

The conflict has displaced over two-thirds of Gaza's population.

Wael Abu Omar, spokesperson for Gaza’s border crossings, said 846 people left Gaza to Egypt through the Rafah crossing Sunday.

Nearly all were foreigners while a few were patients from Gaza’s hospitals and their caretakers.

He said 76 aid trucks entered Gaza, a far cry from what is needed, the UN has said.

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