Palestinian health officials say babies in incubators are fighting for their lives as Israel besieges the hospital compound.
The Israeli army has brought the war to the gates of al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest hospital complex, where thousands of wounded and displaced people are trapped under fierce bombardment.
“We are minutes away from imminent death,” Muhammad Abu Salmiya, director of al-Shifa Hospital, told Al Jazeera on Saturday from inside the besieged facility, where operations had to be suspended after a power and fuel outage.
Abu Salmiya said al-Shifa buildings were being targeted and anyone moving within the hospital grounds was attacked by Israeli snipers.
“A member of the medical team who tried to reach the incubator to help the babies born inside was shot and killed,” he said. “We lost a baby in the incubator, we also lost a young man in intensive care.”
Gaza Deputy Health Minister Dr Youssef Abu al-Reesh, who is currently at al-Shifa Hospital, told Al Jazeera that all generators were turned off and all sources of electricity were now cut off in the hospital.
“We have 39 newborns in the incubators, these babies are fighting against death.”
He also said snipers were stationed around the compound and people inside could not move freely.
“Fierce gunfire is heard around the hospital, the intensive care unit received a mortar shell a few minutes ago… Blood is everywhere, on the floor, we can’t even clean it up,” he added.
Located in the northern district of Rimal, near the port, al-Shifa became a hospital in 1946, undergoing successive expansions. The facility has become a lifeline for people requiring urgent medical intervention.
Thousands of people who lost their homes to Israel’s relentless bombing also live in the hospital’s corridors and courtyard.
Israel claims Al-Shifa provides cover for a Hamas command center, an accusation the hospital director has dismissed as an “absolute lie.” Hamas also rejects these claims.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk, visiting the region, said any armed group that uses civilian infrastructure for protection contravenes the laws of war. However, he added: “But such conduct by Palestinian armed groups does not absolve Israel of its obligation to ensure that civilians are spared… Failure to do so is also contrary to the laws of war – with a devastating impact on civilians. »
Al Jazeera diplomatic correspondent James Bays noted: “So this is the top human rights official saying that targeting a hospital is a war crime. »
Bays also noted that no doctors or staff at al-Shifa have reported seeing Hamas members at the hospital in years.
“We cannot bury our dead”
Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French name Médecins Sans Frontières or MSF, has provided al-Shifa with the medicines and equipment it still has in stock. Saturday morning, the NGO posted on that he was unable to contact his staff inside the hospital and that he was “extremely concerned” about the fate of patients and doctors.
Fabrizio Carboni, regional director of the Red Cross for the Near and Middle East, said reports from al-Shifa were “distressing”, adding that the thousands of people in the compound “must be protected in accordance with the laws of war”.
Speaking from inside the hospital on Saturday, Gaza Deputy Health Minister Monir al-Bashr said people were forced to dig with their hands to bury the bodies in the compound. ‘hospital.
“We are surrounded, we cannot bury our dead. We will create a mass grave within the hospital grounds,” he told Al Jazeera:
“We have no equipment or machinery to dig the grave. These bodies must be buried otherwise epidemics will break out. These bodies have been lying in the street for days.
As fighting intensifies just outside the hospital’s front gate, for Abu Salmiya, the hospital director, the outlook is bleak.
“We are totally cut off from the whole world… We are blocked, we have sent many SOS to the whole world – there has been no response, no response,” he said.