Premature babies at Gaza’s main hospital are being wrapped in foil and placed next to hot water in a desperate bid to keep them alive in “catastrophic” conditions, the hospital director has warned, as Israeli firepower pounds surrounding streets and remaining fuel reserves dry up, leaving the plant unable to function.
Staff at Al-Shifa Hospital struggled to keep the newborns alive and warm after the oxygen supply ran out and they had to move the babies by hand from the neonatal unit’s incubators to another part of the hospital. Meanwhile, a reporter from the Al Arabiya network who was inside the hospital told CNN that people were trapped there, too scared to escape due to the fierce fighting.
“There is no more water, food, milk for children and babies… the situation in the hospital is catastrophic,” said the director of the medical center, Dr. Muhammad Abu Salmiya, to CNN Monday.
Pictures show several newborn babies taken from incubators at the hospital placed together in a bed.
The doctor told Al Araby TV on Sunday that several children had died in the intensive care unit and nursery over the past two days amid Israel’s relentless bombardment and blockade of Gaza, an already impoverished and densely packed area, following the October 7 attack on the countryside. territory of Hamas militants.
An Israeli military spokesman told CNN on Saturday that its forces were engaged in “ongoing intense fighting” against Hamas near the hospital compound, but denied firing at the medical center in northern Gaza and rejected suggestions that the hospital is under siege .
Israel has repeatedly claimed that there is a Hamas command center under the Al-Shifa hospital, which Hamas and hospital officials have denied. The Israeli military has also previously accused Hamas of embedding itself in civilian infrastructure. CNN cannot independently verify Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claims.
Newborns are placed in a bed after being taken out of incubators at Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital when the oxygen supply in the neonatal unit ran out, November 12.
Khader Al Zanoun/AFP/Getty Images
Thousands of displaced people try to seek shelter at Al-Shifa hospital with medical staff and patients, pictured on November 10. Many civilians are too afraid to leave amid Israel’s ongoing barrage of strikes.
Works by candlelight
A freelance journalist inside Al-Shifa described dozens of bodies yet to be buried, ambulances unable to pick up the wounded, and life support systems without electricity to function. Doctors worked by candlelight, food was rationed and people inside started drinking tap water, the journalist said late Saturday.
CNN also spoke with a reporter from the Al Arabiya network, Khader al Zaanoun, who is inside the hospital.
“Communication is very poor and almost impossible for us to report what is happening in the hospital and its yards, we barely have cell lines but no internet,” he said.
“No one can move or dare to leave the hospital, the staff here are aware of many strikes happening around the hospital, we see smoke coming from those strikes and we know there are people in some of those buildings but ambulances are not coming out of the hospital because… in the last few days an ambulance was hit on its way out of the hospital.”
Abu Salmiya, the director of Al-Shifa, told CNN that 7,000 displaced people were desperately trying to seek shelter at the Al-Shifa hospital, which has about 1,500 patients and medical staff.
Inside the hospital, none of the operating rooms are working due to a lack of electricity, Abu Salmiya told Al Araby TV, adding that “the one who needs to be operated on is dying and we can’t do anything for him.”
“Now the wounded come to us and we can give them nothing but first aid,” he said.
The World Health Organization says Al-Shifa has been without power for three days. “Unfortunately, the hospital no longer functions as a hospital,” it said.
The spokesman for the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health in Gaza, Dr. Ashraf al-Qidra, said over the weekend that the intensive care unit, pediatric ward and oxygen machines were out of order.
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Al-Shifa is far from alone. On Sunday, the Palestinian Red Crescent announced that Al-Quds Hospital, another major facility in Gaza City, was out of service. The PRCS said the hospital – the second largest in Gaza – was no longer operational. This cessation of services is due to depletion of available fuel and power outage.”
Israeli airstrikes have killed more than 11,000 people, including 4,506 children and 3,027 women, according to the latest available figures released Friday by the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah, which draws its figures from the Hamas-controlled area.
Israel’s blockade of essential supplies, including fuel, entering Gaza has exacerbated a humanitarian crisis as hospitals, water systems, bakeries and other services dependent on electricity shut down.
Volker Türk, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said on Wednesday that both Hamas and Israel had committed war crimes in the past month.
Dr. Munir Al-Bursh, the director general of the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health, said on Monday that medical staff at Al-Shifa had rejected an IDF evacuation order because they fear about 700 patients will die if left behind.
“The problem is not the doctors, it’s the patients. And if they are left, they will die, and if they are transferred, they will die on the road, that’s the problem, we’re talking about 700 patients,” Al-Bursh told CNN on Monday.
“There has been no response so far from the doctors, but some of the displaced people and families have already left.”
According to Al-Bursh, the evacuation order is not coordinated with any international humanitarian agencies, such as the International Red Cross. The lack of coordination raises concerns about the safety and feasibility of transferring such a large number of patients, many of whom are in critical condition and will die during transport, he said.
CNN has requested comment from the IDF regarding Al-Bursh’s claim that it ordered the hospital’s evacuation.
Earlier Monday, the IDF announced that an evacuation corridor for residents of northern Gaza had been reopened. IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said Sunday that the majority of people at Al-Nasr Hospital and Al Rantisi Pediatric Hospital, both in northern Gaza, had been evacuated.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview with CNN on Sunday that there is “no reason” that patients cannot be evacuated from Al-Shifa. Netanyahu told CNN that Israel is helping patients by establishing corridors on the ground and said “100 or so” have already been evacuated from the hospital.
CNN cannot independently verify whether any people have been able to evacuate.
CNN has previously documented Palestinian civilians being killed by Israeli strikes around evacuation zones, underscoring the reality that evacuation zones and warnings from the IDF have not guaranteed the safety of civilians in the densely populated Gaza Strip.
International calls for a ceasefire continue to rise as global leaders press Israel over the rising civilian death toll and huge crowds gather in cities around the world for pro-Palestinian protests. But Netanyahu reiterated to CNN on Sunday that the only halt to the fighting he would accept is “one where we have our hostages released.”
The Israeli military estimates that 240 hostages are being held by Hamas in Gaza, including civilian men, women and children. The militant group has released just four hostages – two elderly Israeli women and an American mother and daughter – while Israeli forces said they had rescued an Israeli soldier.
Israeli troops continued their ground operation in Gaza on Sunday by moving deeper into Gaza City, said army spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari in a press briefing. Infantry and combat engineering forces reached the outskirts of the al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza, Hagari said, which is near the Al-Shifa hospital. Meanwhile, army forces in coordination with the navy raided Gaza’s marina area and are currently in the areas to the east.
On Sunday, the Israeli military said it had placed 300 liters of fuel at the entrance to the Shifa hospital complex, but that Hamas had blocked the hospital from receiving it. Abu Salmiya told Al Araby TV that staff had been too scared to go out to get it.
“We told the Israeli army that the 300 liters of fuel they offered is not enough to run the hospital for 30 minutes,” Abu Salmiya told CNN. He said on Monday that the hospital had asked the IDF for 600 liters of fuel every hour to power its generators, but that the IDF had not yet responded.
The IDF released a video it said showed soldiers delivering the jerry cans to a curbside location near the hospital’s entrance. It also released an audio recording, purportedly of a hospital official accusing a Hamas leader in the health ministry of refusing to allow it to be collected.
Abu Salmiya said it was the presence of Israeli tanks that had prevented collection.
“Of course, my paramedic team was completely afraid to go out,” he said, adding: “We want every drop of fuel, but I told (the IDF) that it should be sent through the International Red Cross or through any international institution.”
Hamas denied the claims, saying the Israeli fuel delivery was a propaganda stunt.
This story will be updated with further developments.