Premature babies at Gaza’s largest hospital are being wrapped in foil and placed next to hot water in a desperate bid to keep them alive in “catastrophic” conditions, the hospital director has warned, as Israeli firepower pounds surrounding streets and remaining fuel reserves dry up, leaving the facility unable to function.
Images show several newborn babies who were taken from incubators at the hospital placed together in one bed.
The doctor on Sunday told Al Araby TV that several children had died in the intensive care unit and the nursery over the past two days amid Israel’s unrelenting bombardment and blockade of Gaza, an already impoverished and densely packed territory, following the October 7 attack on its territory by Hamas militants.
“When these babies are born prematurely, to sustain their lives they need to have the same temperature of their mother. This temperature can only be offered in the incubators, which are heated properly,” Abbas said.
He warned that the situation would only worsen as winter draws in.
Working by candlelight
A freelance journalist inside Al-Shifa described dozens of bodies yet to be buried, ambulances that were unable to collect the wounded, and life-support systems with no electricity to function. Medics were working by candlelight, food was being rationed and people inside were starting to drink pipe water, the journalist said late Saturday.
“Communication is very bad and almost impossible for us to report what is happening in the hospital and its yards, we barely have cell lines but no internet,” he said.
“No-one can move or dare to go out of the hospital, the staff here are aware of many strikes that are happening around the hospital, we see smoke coming up from those strikes and we know that there are people in some of those buildings but ambulances do not make their way out of the hospital because… during the last days an ambulance was hit on its way out of the hospital.”
Inside the hospital, none of the operating rooms are functioning due to a lack of electricity, Abu Salmiya told Al Araby TV, adding that “whoever needs surgery dies, and we cannot do anything for him.”
“Now the wounded come to us and we cannot give them anything other than first aid,” he said.
The World Health Organization says Al-Shifa has been without power for three days. “Regrettably, the hospital is not functioning as a hospital anymore,” it said.
The spokesman for the Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza, Dr. Ashraf al-Qidra, said over the weekend that the intensive care unit, pediatric department and oxygen devices were out of service.
Al-Shifa is far from alone. On Sunday, the Palestine Red Crescent Society announced that Al-Quds Hospital, another major facility in Gaza City, was out of service. The PRCS said the hospital – the second largest in Gaza – was “no longer operational. This cessation of services is due to the depletion of available fuel and power outage.”
Israeli airstrikes have killed at least 11,180 people, including 4,609 children and 3,100 women, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah, which draws its figures from the Hamas-controlled territory. At least 28,200 people have been injured.
In recent days, 15 patients have died at Al-Shifa, among them six newborns, due to power outages and a shortage of medical supplies.
Israel’s blockade on essential supplies including fuel entering Gaza has deepened a humanitarian crisis as hospitals, water systems, bakeries and other services reliant on electricity shut down.
Volker Türk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said on Wednesday that both Hamas and Israel had committed war crimes in the past month.
‘If they are left behind, they will die’
Dr. Munir Al-Bursh, the director-general of the Hamas-controlled health ministry, said Monday that medical staff at Al-Shifa had refused an IDF evacuation order because they fear approximately 700 patients will die if they are left behind.
“There has been no response until now by the doctors, but some of the displaced people and families have already been leaving.”
The evacuation order, according to Al-Bursh, is not coordinated with any international humanitarian agencies, such as the International Red Cross. The lack of coordination raises concerns about the safety and feasibility of transferring such a large number of patients, many of whom are in critical condition and will die in transport, he said.
Earlier on Monday, the IDF announced that an evacuation corridor for residents of northern Gaza had been reopened. IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said Sunday that the majority of people in Al-Nasr hospital and Al Rantisi Pediatric hospital, both in northern Gaza, had been evacuated.
The Israeli military estimates 240 hostages are being held by Hamas in Gaza, including civilian men, women and children. The militant group has released just four hostages – two elderly Israeli women and an American mother and daughter – while the Israeli forces said they had rescued an Israeli soldier.
Israeli troops on Sunday continued their ground operation in Gaza by going deeper into Gaza City, army spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said in a press briefing. Infantry and combat engineering forces reached the outskirts of al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza, Hagari said, which is near Al-Shifa hospital. Meanwhile, army forces in coordination with the Navy raided the Gaza marina area and are currently in the areas to its east.
Dispute over fuel offer
On Sunday, the Israeli military said it had put 300 liters of fuel at the entrance to the Shifa hospital complex, but that Hamas had blocked the hospital from receiving it. Abu Salmiya told Al Araby TV that staff had been too scared to go out to get it.
The IDF released a video it said showed soldiers delivering the jerry cans to a curbside location near the hospital entrance. It also released an audio recording, purportedly of a hospital official accusing a Hamas leader at the health ministry of refusing to allow it to be collected.
Abu Salmiya said it was the presence of Israeli tanks that had prevented collection.
“Of course, my paramedic team was completely afraid to go out,” he said, adding: “We want every drop of fuel, but I told (the IDF) that it should be sent through the International Red Cross or through any international institution.”
Hamas dismissed the allegations and said the Israeli fuel delivery was a propaganda stunt.
This story is being updated with additional developments.