Gaza’s main hospital was collapsing on Saturday as the Israeli forces surrounded it and a power outage caused the deaths of a premature baby in an incubator and at least four other patients, according to the hospital director and the Gaza health ministry.
Without fuel to run generators, the hospital, Al-Shifa, in Gaza City, has been plunged into darkness and its medical equipment has stopped working. For weeks — as Israel has cut off supplies of fuel and electricity — the hospital has relied on backup generators and a dwindling supply of fuel.
“Surgeries have had to stop,” said the hospital’s director, Dr. Mohammed Abu Salmiya. “Kidney dialysis has stopped and the neonatal unit is in a very dire situation. A baby has died because of lack of oxygen and electricity and heat.”
Medical staff had to perform manual artificial respiration on some patients in intensive care for many hours after the outage shut down ventilators, said Medhat Abbas, the director general of Gaza’s health ministry.
Over the last few days, Israel’s ground invasion of the territory has moved deeper into Gaza City, slowly closing in on the hospitals that have provided refuge for tens of thousands. Israel says the hospitals are shielding Hamas military operations in tunnels below.
At Al-Shifa, thousands of seriously ill and wounded patients and displaced people have been trapped inside while Israeli tanks and troops surround the compounds, with snipers occasionally firing off shots, according to the health ministry, doctors and some witnesses sheltering inside.
Nearby, there is intense, close-quarter combat between Israeli troops and fighters from Hamas, the armed Palestinian group that controls Gaza.
The Israeli military has repeatedly urged patients and people sheltering at hospitals in Gaza City to be evacuated to the south away from the urban combat. 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 at by snipers they believed to be Israeli, and at least one person was killed, according to multiple people at Al-Shifa Hospital, including Dr. Abu Salmiya.
On Saturday, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military spokesman, denied Israeli forces had besieged Al-Shifa and said troops would provide a safe passage for people to evacuate along the hospital compound’s eastern side. He said Israeli troops were not attacking the hospital itself but confirmed Israel was battling Hamas fighters “who choose to fight next to Al-Shifa Hospital.”
Al-Shifa has dozens of other premature babies in incubators that are no longer functioning, said Dr. Nasser Bulbul, leader of the hospital’s premature and neonatal department.
“We have to transport the babies in blankets and sheets to another building,” he said, where there was a bit of electricity to power incubators. He added that it was dangerous even to move from one building to another inside the medical complex.
Admiral Hagari said on Saturday evening that the Israeli military would help transfer babies out of Al-Shifa, but the hospital director said there were no plans for that.
“The staff of the Shifa Hospital has requested that tomorrow we will help the babies in the pediatric department to get to a safer hospital,” Admiral Hagari said at a televised news conference. “We will provide the assistance needed.”
“These words are completely false,” Dr. Abu Salmiya said afterward. There was no safer hospital or any such coordination, he said.
On Saturday, the Palestine Red Crescent warned that Al-Quds Hospital, another major hospital in Gaza City, was at risk of closing down because it was running out of fuel to 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 in northern Gaza, has been at Al-Shifa Hospital for more than a month. He said on Saturday that his home was hit by Israeli airstrikes early in the war, wounding his brother, and that they fled to the hospital for treatment and for shelter.
“Everyone is on top of one another, displaced people, wounded people, even the medical staff,” he said. “They try to save this person and that person, but they can’t. There’s no electricity or medicine or anything,” he added.
“People are afraid, but we pray that God will protect us.”
Rawan Sheikh Ahmad and Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting.