Babies die as Gaza’s largest hospital runs out of fuel as Israel warns Lebanon over Hezbollah missile strikes
(See translation in Arabic section)
Sydney - Middle East Times Int’l: At least three premature babies died at the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza when a missile strike nearby shut down the medical facility’s backup generator, according to a doctor at the hospital.
And Hamas has denied refusing an offer of fuel from Israel for the hospital, which the World Health Organisation says is “not functioning” due to bombing and gunfire.
Dr. Ahmed Mokhallalti, the chief plastic surgeon at the hospital, said the babies died when the power to their incubators was cut off overnight on Friday.
He said all of the hospital’s ventilators were back up and running more than 24 hours later but he expressed fear that more people would die at the hospital due to the relentless bombing.
Hospital officials said two patients in the hospital’s intensive care unit also died on Sunday due to complications caused by the shelling.
Israel’s military said it co-ordinated the delivery of 300 litres of fuel with hospital officials but claimed Hamas prevented the hospital from receiving it.
Hamas denied the claim, saying in a statement: “The offer belittles the pain and suffering of the patients who are trapped inside without water, food, or electricity. This quantity is not enough to operate hospital generators for more than 30 minutes.”
Israel has claimed that a Hamas control centre is situated under the hospital, which medical staff at the hospital and Hamas have repeatedly denied.
A second hospital in Gaza, al Quds, closed to new patients on Sunday.
Three UN agencies have expressed horror at the situation facing Gaza’s hospitals, saying they had recorded at least 137 attacks on healthcare facilities in 36 days resulting in 521 deaths and 686 injuries.
The director-general of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the situation at Al Shifa hospital was “dire and perilous” with constant gunfire and bombing exacerbating the already critical circumstances.
Hamas said earlier on Sunday that it had suspended hostage negotiations with Israel over the country's handling of the worsening situation at al Shifa hospital.
The international humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders also made repeated calls for the shelling of hospitals in Gaza to cease.
“We are nearly sure that we are alone now. No one hears us,” Dr. Mohammed Obeid of Doctors Without Borders said in a video statement from the Al-Shifa Hospital.
Obeid said there are about 600 patients at the hospital who need to be evacuated.
“The problem is (we need) to be sure we can evacuate the neonatal patients because we have 37 to 40 premature babies,” Obeid said. “We have about 17 other patients in the ICU, and we have 600 postoperative patients who need medical care. So the situation is very bad. We need help.”
The World Health Organization announced that it had lost communication with its contacts in the hospital.
The last report WHO says it received from staff at the hospital said Al-Shifa was surrounded by tanks and there was a “lack of clean water and risk of the last remaining critical functions, including ICUs, ventilators and incubators, soon shutting down due to lack of fuel.”
Dr. Mokhallalati said that he is unwilling to leave his scores of burn patients and stayed behind with some 2000 people left in the hospital complex and about 500 patients.
He said the hospital is virtually cut off because no one can get in -- they only received two or three patients on Saturday.
But despite having hundreds of burn patients, Mokhallalati doesn’t have much to do because they have only enough power for a single outlet to work. They use it in a clinic which has become the only operating room because the real ORs require more power.
Mokhallalati said only about 15-20% of the hospital staff remain.
The Israeli military’s civil co-ordinator said in a video statement that the eastern exit to the hospital is open and that people are free to leave. But Israeli military images released show that much of Gaza City and its outlying neighbourhoods are flattened.
Dr. Tom Potokar, the International Committee of the Red Cross’ chief surgeon currently working in the European Gaza Hospital, detailed the challenges they are facing in a media interview.
Potokar, who specializes in burn treatments, said they have seen “many, many” burn cases, adding that the number of burn patients is “relentless” and “not slowing down at all”. The patients with burn injuries have been all ages, with the youngest they’ve seen just 4 months old, he said.
“A lot of them have burns involving the face as well, and limbs,” Potokar said. “These could be quite deep burns, as I say, so will lead to significant scarring potentially in the future if they actually survive.”
Potokar, who has been a war surgeon in Gaza before, said the damage was “far, far” worse and in a “completely different stratosphere from how I’ve ever come across it before”.
He said the way they are treating burns is “not ideal” under the current circumstances due to limited medical supplies.
“The way we’re treating burns is really stepping back 40, 50 years,” he said.
Meanwhile, fighting between Hezbollah and Israeli forces intensified in southern Lebanon, where the terrorist group has claimed responsibility for launching missile strikes on northern Israel, Israeli military officials say.
“Hezbollah is dragging Lebanon into a war that may happen, and it is making mistakes,” Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said.
“If it makes mistakes of this kind, the ones who will pay the price are first of all the citizens of Lebanon. What we are doing in Gaza we know how to do in Beirut.”
Hezbollah claimed responsibility for at least five attacks in northern Israel, including one it says resulted in numerous deaths and injuries. The terrorist group also claimed one of its missile strikes targeted Israel’s Zarit Barracks on the Israeli-Lebanese border.
Hezbollah has been designated a terrorist organization by multiple countries, including the US and Israel.
Fighting between Hezbollah and Israeli troops intensified early into Sunday morning. Local news media broadcast images of the heavy clashes in the hills along the border and smoke rising.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati released a statement saying his country does not want war but has made a contingency plan in case it is drawn into the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
“What matters to me is that Lebanon stays away from war and looks forward to stability,” he said and called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.