Humanitarian aid 'will grind to a halt' in Gaza due to lack of fuel, UN warns

Israel has been urged to protect Gaza's hospitals as Health Officials described the territories biggest as "nearly cemeteries," as Rachel Younger reports

  • Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital is 'nearly a cemetery' WHO says, as bodies pile-up after its fuel supply was cut off

  • Israeli troops continue to target Al-Shifa Hospital as the military claims Hamas is operating in tunnels underneath it

  • At least 11,180 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since October 7, according to the health ministry. At least 1,400 people in Israel were killed in Hamas' attack

Humanitarian operations in the Gaza Strip, vital to almost every person living in the territory, will "grind to a halt" due to the lack of fuel, the UN has warned.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency said they had been warning for three weeks the fuel situation in Gaza was desperate and now it has finally run out.

They said: "It is very simple. Without fuel, the humanitarian operation in Gaza is coming to an end. Many more people will suffer and will likely die.   

"It is unbelievable that humanitarian agencies have to beg for fuel and operate on life support."

In recent days Israeli forces have advanced through northern Gaza, with fighting getting closer and closer to several hospitals in the region.

World Health Organisation (WHO) spokesman Christian Lindmeier said about 600 people were inside the Al-Shifa hospital, with others sheltering in hallways, after doctors refused a mandatory evacuation order from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on Monday.

"Around the hospital there are dead bodies which cannot be taken care of or not even be buried or taken away to any sort of morgue," Mr Lindemeier said.

"The hospital is not working at all any more as it should. It's nearly a cemetery."

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

Conditions inside are "catastrophic," with 36 premature babies being wrapped in foil and placed next to hot water to keep them alive, as there is no power for incubators, the hospital's director Mohammad Abu Salmiya said.

Mr Lindmeier warned on Tuesday the only way to save the newborns would be to call a ceasefire and transport them out of the territory.

Israel’s defence minister, Yoav Gallant, said in a nationally televised press conference on Tuesday night that Hamas has “lost control” of northern Gaza and that Israel has made significant gains in Gaza City.

When asked about the timeframe for the war, Gallant said: “We’re talking about long months, not a day or two.”

Earlier the White House’s national security council spokesperson, John Kirby, said the US had evidence Hamas used tunnels underneath Gazan hospitals to hide and support their military operations, and to hold Israeli hostages.

A spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he was "deeply disturbed by the horrible situation and dramatic loss of life in several hospitals in Gaza.

"In the name of humanity, the Secretary-General calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire."

Human Rights Watch said Israel's repeated "apparently unlawful attacks on medical facilities" should be investigated for war crimes.

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

A doctor in Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital talks to ITV News

Dr Ahmed Mokhallalati told ITV News: " It's actually a terrible situation, no one can imagine how terrifying the situation is here.

"Al-Shifa Hospital is now totally under blockade. No water, no electricity, no fuel, no oxygen, nothing within the hospital.

"We are losing the patients one by one. Today we lost seven just because of the lack of supplies, lack of the ability to operate. "We are at the stage where we do harm if we keep the patients in the hospital.

"We work in the corridor where we've got one socket with electric supply and we connected one anesthesia machine to that. Currently almost all the hospital is in the dark.

"We announced the stop of the oxygen, we were doing on a life saving procedure without having direct oxygen supply, which add a lot to the, risk of losing the patient's life.

"One of the really difficult decisions was we had to stop the incubators.

"Unfortunately, this means that most of these babies will lose their lives in front of us, and we already lost, five of them.

"We are expecting to lose more, they are not much more than one and half kilograms each.

"The hospital is totally under located, fully surrounded by tanks, by snipers. We were unable to move in or out of the hospital.

"It's not safe place to leave the hospital."

Only one hospital in the north is capable of receiving patients, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said, and all others have ceased functioning and are serving as shelters from the fighting.

Gunfire and bombings outside the compounds have only worsened the situation, with attempts by The Red Cross to evacuate 6,000 staff and patients from the Al-Quds Hospital failing.

While Israel's military says it is willing to allow staff and patients to evacuate, Palestinian medics claim Israeli forces have fired at evacuees and that it is too dangerous to move the most vulnerable patients. 

Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said it has proposed evacuating the hospital with the supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross and transferring the patients to hospitals in Egypt, but has not received any response.

He said 120 bodies will be buried in a mass grave inside Al-Shifa hospital because they are unable to safely transport them to cemeteries.

Palestinians line up for food during the ongoing Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Rafah Credit: AP

Those who escaped heavy bombardment in the north of Gaza and around the hospitals are now living in tents in the south, with very little food.

“Some were cut to pieces, some fell to the ground, some were screaming and making noises, and I was running while the people were running,” Nermin Abu al-Tarabish said.

“It was a tragic day. I had never experienced anything like this day in my life.”

More than two-thirds of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million have fled their homes since the war began.

Israel has justified its actions around hospitals in the north of Gaza after accusing Hamas of using the sites as cover for its fighters.

The IDF says Hamas has set up its main command centre in and beneath Al-Shifa hospital. Both Hamas and the hospital staff deny this.

On Tuesday Lord David Cameron in one of his first acts as foreign secretary announced sanctions against several high-profile Hamas leaders.

The action is co-ordinated with the US and aimed at disrupting operations even if the leaders are "pulling the strings from outside of Gaza", the department said.

The outside of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. Credit: CNN

On Monday, Israel's military released a video from what it claimed was a children’s hospital, which its forces occupied over the weekend.

The video showed weapons allegedly found inside, as well as rooms in the basement where it claims the militants were holding some of the hostages they abducted during the initial attack on October 7.

“Hamas uses hospitals as an instrument of war,” said Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the army’s chief spokesman.

He can be seen standing in a room of the Rantisi Children’s Hospital decorated with a colourful children’s drawing of a tree, with explosive vests and grenades on the floor, in the video.

In another part of the video, he stands in an area that he said could have been used to hold hostages.

It included what appeared to be a hastily installed toilet and air vent, a baby bottle and a motorcycle. He said forensic experts were examining the scenes.

The health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza rejected the allegations, saying the basement shown was part of the hospital and had been turned into a shelter for displaced people.

“The hospital was forcefully evacuated at gunpoint ... Why didn’t they detain any of the alleged resistance or alleged hostages?” the statement said. It denied the facility was related to a tunnel that Israeli forces uncovered nearby.

International law gives hospitals special protections during war.

Hospitals can lose those protections if combatants use them to hide fighters or store weapons, but staff and patients must be given plenty of warning to evacuate, and the harm to civilians cannot be disproportionate to the military objective.

At least 11,180 Palestinians, including 4,609 children and 3,100 women, have been killed in Gaza according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. At least 1,400 people were killed in Hamas' October 7 attacks in Israel.

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