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Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest medical facility in Gaza, is “almost a cemetery”, the World Health Organization has warned, as Israel’s war against Hamas deepens a humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian enclave.
Hospitals in northern Gaza have been forced to gradually cease operations over the past two weeks as Israeli troops pushed deep into the enclave, severely restricting supplies of fuel, water and food to the besieged area.
According to the United Nations’ humanitarian arm, OCHA, all but one of northern Gaza’s hospitals had ceased operations by Monday evening due to a lack of “electricity, medical supplies, oxygen, food and water” and Israeli bombing Shootings around them.
“Around [al-Shifa] “There are bodies that cannot be cared for, buried or taken to any mortuary,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said on Monday. “The hospital no longer functions as it should. It’s almost a cemetery.”
OCHA said 32 patients – including three premature babies – had died in al-Shifa since Saturday as a result of the power outage and “catastrophic conditions” at the hospital. Mohamed Abu Silmeyeh, director of the hospital, warned on Saturday that doctors had to wrap babies in cellophane to keep them alive after incubators stopped working due to a lack of electricity.
Israel claims al-Shifa is a key location for Hamas’s operations because it sits atop the armed group’s underground infrastructure, which the Israeli military aims to destroy. Doctors at the hospital in Gaza City have rejected the claim, saying thousands of patients, medical staff and civilians are seeking refuge at the hospital.
The desperate situation in Gaza hospitals has raised tensions between Israel and its allies, with the United States, France and other Western nations increasingly pressing Israel to exercise restraint in operations near medical facilities.
US President Joe Biden said on Monday evening that the US had spoken to Israel about the issue and that hospitals “must be protected,” he added. “My hope and expectation is that there will be less intrusive measures compared to hospitals.”
Israel bombed Gaza and launched a ground invasion after Hamas militants from the coastal strip launched the deadliest attack ever on Israel last month, killing more than 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials.
As of Sunday night, the Israeli attack in Gaza had killed more than 11,000 people, including more than 4,500 children and more than 3,000 women, according to health officials in the enclave.
However, Gaza’s Health Ministry said it was having “significant difficulties” compiling the data due to communications blackouts in the territory and estimated that another 3,000 citizens were missing or lying under the rubble of buildings destroyed in the fighting.
The ministry on Monday described al-Shifa as “completely besieged” and said there were more than 100 bodies that had begun to decompose and there was a “corpse smell” everywhere.
It was said that 8,000 displaced people sought refuge in al-Shifa, but there was no food or fresh water.
Israel-Hamas War: 2-minute briefing
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