Deir al-Balah: The humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsened on Saturday as Israeli forces surrounded the Shifa hospital, the largest medical facility in the enclave, and cut off its power supply, leading to the death of five patients, including a premature baby. Doctors at the hospital said they were running out of fuel for the last generator and could not operate the life-saving equipment. They also accused the Israeli soldiers of firing at anyone who tried to enter or exit the hospital compound.
Israel has claimed that the Shifa hospital is being used by Hamas as a military headquarters and that the militants have built underground tunnels and bunkers beneath it. Israel has also alleged that Hamas is using the civilians in the hospital as human shields and preventing them from leaving the war zone. However, these claims have not been verified by any independent source and have been denied by Hamas and the hospital staff.
Shifa director Mohammed Abu Selmiya said that the situation in the hospital was dire and that many patients were in critical condition. He said that he could hear the sounds of gunfire and explosions as he spoke over the phone. “There is no electricity,” he said. “Medical equipment has stopped. Patients, especially those in intensive care, have started dying.” He said that Israeli soldiers were blocking the movement between the buildings in the hospital complex and shooting at anyone who tried to move. “They are killing us,” he said.
Health Ministry spokesman Medhat Abbas confirmed that five patients, including a premature baby, had died due to the power outage. He said that the hospital had 37 premature babies in its care and that they were at risk of dying as well. He also said that there were still 1,500 patients and 1,500 medical workers in the hospital and that 15,000 to 20,000 people were taking shelter in the hospital and other nearby facilities.
Israel has announced that it is opening the main southbound road for several hours each day to allow the civilians to evacuate from the northern Gaza war zone. On Saturday, for the first time, the army also declared a brief pause in the fighting to facilitate the evacuation. However, many civilians have said that they are afraid to leave their homes or shelters for fear of being targeted by the Israeli forces or the Hamas militants.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has blamed Hamas for the suffering of the civilians in Gaza and reiterated his accusation that the terrorist group is using them as human shields. He said that Israel has warned the civilians to leave the area and that Hamas is doing everything possible to stop them. He said that Israel is taking all possible measures to avoid civilian casualties and that it is only targeting the Hamas infrastructure and operatives.
Netanyahu’s statement came after French President Emmanuel Macron called for an immediate ceasefire and urged other world leaders to join his appeal. He told the BBC that there is “no logic” in the continued bombing by Israel and that it is only creating more violence and hatred. He said that the international community must intervene to stop the bloodshed and to find a political solution to the conflict.
The war between Israel and Hamas, which started on October 7 after a deadly attack by the militants on Israel, has now entered its second month and has claimed the lives of at least 1,200 people, mostly civilians. The war has also caused widespread destruction and displacement in Gaza, where more than 150,000 people have fled their homes, according to UN estimates. The UN has also warned of a looming humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, where the population of 2 million is facing shortages of food, water, medicine, and fuel.
The US, which is Israel’s main ally, has been pushing for a temporary pause in the hostilities so that humanitarian aid can reach the civilians in need. However, Israel has so far agreed only to a limited period of time per day during which the civilians can leave the northern Gaza area and head south on foot. Israel has also rejected any ceasefire proposal that does not include the disarmament of Hamas and the destruction of its tunnels and rockets.