Gaza's main hospital no longer functioning, World Health Organisation says, as Israel 'agrees to evacuate babies'

13 November 2023, 06:05

The WHO described the situation at the Al-Shifa in Gaza city as "dire and perilous"
The WHO described the situation at the Al-Shifa in Gaza city as "dire and perilous". Picture: Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Gaza's main hospital is 'no longer functioning as a hospital', the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned, blaming "constant gunfire and bombings in the area".

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Generators at the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City ran out of fuel on Saturday with the Health Ministry, controlled by Hamas, saying three premature babies and four other patients have died as a result.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the situation at the hospital is "dire and perilous".

"It's been 3 days without electricity, without water and with very poor internet which has severely impacted our ability to provide essential care," he said.

"The constant gunfire and bombings in the area have exacerbated the already critical circumstances. Tragically, the number of patient fatalities has increased significantly.

"Regrettably, the hospital is not functioning as a hospital anymore. The world cannot stand silent while hospitals, which should be safe havens, are transformed into scenes of death, devastation, and despair. Ceasefire. NOW."

Al-Quds hospital is also reported to be out of power - which would further endanger civilian lives.

Read More: Hezbollah attacks wounded Israeli troops along Lebanon border

The Israel Defence Force's (IDF) spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said it had opened "designated routes" from hospitals in northern Gaza to the south and said Israel is working to offer "assistance to safely transport the sick and the wounded".

Israel is also "ready to help" in the evacuation of dozens of babies currently inside the hospital, he added.

Al-Quds, a second hospital in the enclave also reports that it has run out of power.
Al-Quds, a second hospital in the enclave also reports that it has run out of power. Picture: Getty

Reuters previously reported that medics inside Al-Shifa are expecting to lose more babies each day because of the lack of power at the largest hospital in the strip.

IDF ground forces are battling Hamas militants near the hospital, which health officials say houses thousands of medics, patients and displaced people who are trapped with no electricity and dwindling supplies.

Israeli airstrikes continued to batter the enclave into Sunday as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected calls for a ceasefire in a televised addresss.

Israel has vowed to end Hamas’s 16-year rule in Gaza and crush its military capabilities, while blaming the militants for the war’s heavy toll on the 2.3 million Palestinians trapped in the besieged territory.

Netanyahu's government has come under mounting international pressure, even from its closest ally the United States, to call a ceasefire as the war enters a sixth week.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected calls for a ceasfire
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected calls for a ceasfire. Picture: Alamy

The Israeli PM says he will not accept a ceasefire unless it includes the release of all 239 hostages captured by Hamas in the October 7 attack that triggered the war.

In Gaza City, residents reported heavy air strikes and shelling overnight, including in the area around Shifa Hospital. Israel, without providing evidence, has accused Hamas of concealing a command post inside and under the hospital compound – allegations denied by Hamas and hospital staff.

“We spent the night in panic waiting for their arrival,” said Ahmed al-Boursh, a resident taking shelter in the hospital. “They are outside, not far from the gates.”

Israel’s military said there is a safe corridor for civilians to evacuate from Shifa to southern Gaza, but people sheltering in the hospital said they are afraid to go outside. The military said troops will assist in moving babies on Sunday, and it is in contact with hospital staff.

It is not possible to independently ascertain the situation in and around the hospital.

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