The Al-Shifa hospital, one of the few health centres still functioning in northern Gaza, is no longer functioning, according to the World Health Organisation, reporting on 13 November, which warned of a ‘dire and perilous’ situation for hundreds of patients and displaced people trapped inside as Israeli troops battle Hamas fighters nearby.
The WHO said that three days ‘without electricity, without water and with very poor internet’ had severely damaged Al-Shifa’s ability to provide care. It cited constant gunfire and bombings in the area, and said patient deaths had increased significantly.
“Regrettably, the hospital is not functioning as a hospital anymore,” the agency’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in a WHO statement.
Patients, including children, at the hospital are dying because of a lack of power, medical staff said, amid conflicting accounts from Israel and health authorities in Gaza over why a badly needed fuel delivery at the besieged facility had been held up.
Without fuel to run generators, the hospital has been plunged into darkness, forcing remaining staff to tend to patients by the light of their cellphones, an official said. The hospital was out of oxygen and dialysis has stopped.
The Palestinian Red Crescent backed up the WHO assessment, saying that Al-Quds hospital in Gaza City is no longer operational as power outages and fuel shortages continued to cause havoc for Gaza’s health facilities.
A UK-based charity, Medical Aid for Palestinians, says Al-Shifa hospital needs fuel to save children’s lives – not incubators, as has been widely speculated. It comes after the Israeli military said it was in process of ‘co-ordinating the transfer of incubators from a hospital in Israel to Gaza.’
Israel has not allowed fuel to enter Gaza since the fighting with Hamas erupted last month, for fear that Hamas will use it militarily.
US president Joe Biden and UK PM Rishi Sunak have both been pushing for greater protection for of Palestinian hospitals and civilians. Mr Biden told reporters at the White House on13 November that he hoped for less intrusive action around Al-Shifa, saying that Gaza City's largest hospital ‘must be protected’.