TEL AVIV — Power outages have hit the intensive care unit and the pediatric ward of Gaza’s main hospital after heavy bombardment and fighting near the facility overnight and into the morning, Palestinian health officials said Saturday.
An infant was among two people who died at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City “because we had no electricity,” Dr. Marwan Abusada, a surgeon at the hospital who is also the head of international cooperation at the Hamas-run ministry. Health told NBC News early Saturday in a phone interview.
A few hours later, Dr. Ashraf Al-Qudra, a spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of Health, said another child had died in the kindergarten of Al-Shifa hospital “after the electric generator stopped and the complex went out of service.”
He said at least 37 premature babies were at risk due to the power outages at the hospital, which he said was sheltering as many as 700 patients, while many displaced people have also sought refuge at the medical facility amid Israel’s offensive.
Earlier in the day, Al-Qudra had told a press conference that the complex was effectively out of order due to heavy bombardment. He said the intensive care unit and pediatric wards had been hit by power outages and also said two people had died.
Both Al-Qudra and Abusada said there was a shortage of food and water at the facility. “We don’t have electricity. We don’t have water. Even we don’t have food,” Abusada said.
NBC News was not immediately able to independently confirm the situation at the scene.
An Israeli military spokesman said in a statement on Saturday that there is “ongoing intense fighting against Hamas in the vicinity” of Al-Shifa hospital. Soldiers “took all possible measures under operational circumstances to mitigate harm to civilians,” they said, adding that they could not answer questions related to “specific military activity currently underway.”
In a later statement, Col. Moshe Tetro, head of the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration under COGAT, Israel’s military liaison with the Palestinians, said “there was no shooting at the hospital and there is no siege.”
Tetro said the east side of the hospital remained open and said the IDF “can coordinate” with anyone who wants to leave the hospital safely.
Abusada had previously said that many did not feel safe leaving the hospital. He said hospital workers were even struggling to give people proper burials, adding that it was too dangerous for them to leave the complex to bury the dead.
“They will attack the people who want to make a hole in the ground to bury these people,” he said, referring to the Israeli military. Asked for comment on this, the IDF referred NBC News to its statement on ongoing fighting in the area.
Health officials in Gaza say more than 11,000 have been killed. It is unclear how many burials have taken place.
The World Health Organization was “extremely alarmed” by reports of strikes at Al-Shifa hospital, its director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a post on social media platform X on Friday.
He called for international humanitarian law to be respected and for a humanitarian ceasefire in the fighting, noting that in recent days four hospitals “have been put out of service.”
“Many health workers we were in contact with have been forced to leave the hospital in search of safety,” he added. “Others report being unable to move due to severe insecurity.”
In recent days, other hospitals in Gaza City have been hit by heavy bombardment and fighting.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said on Saturday that Israeli tanks and military vehicles had surrounded Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City, with “artillery fire that shook the building.” It said there was also “intense gunfire” around the hospital as it urged the international community to intervene. Asked about the situation at the hospital, an IDF spokesman said the Israeli military is “taking all operationally possible measures to protect civilians and to facilitate press freedom.”
“The IDF will continue to take measures to avoid civilian harm while Hamas continues to pursue it,” the spokesman said.
Dr. Mustafa Al-Kahlot, director of Al-Rantisi and Al-Nasr hospitals for children, said Al-Nasr had also suffered several bombardments. Several tanks could also be seen near Al-Rantisi in videos posted on social media and geolocated by NBC News.
While thousands of people have heeded Israeli calls in recent days to leave northern Gaza and head south, Abusada said it was impossible for some patients to leave Al-Shifa – one of a number of medical complexes located in the northern part of the enclave.
“We cannot evacuate from the hospital because we have a large number of injured people still in the hospital,” Abusada said, adding that the doctors would not leave their patients behind. “We have to provide for them,” he said.
The Israeli military has claimed that Hamas is hiding under hospitals in tunnels, including under Al-Shifa – claims that both Hamas and hospital workers have denied.
In addition, a senior Israeli security official told NBC News on Thursday that at least one attack on the compound that day had been from a projectile fired by a militant group inside Gaza that failed. The official said the IDF was conducting a “comprehensive review of its operational systems and intelligence” regarding the attack.
It was the second time Israel has suggested a misfired militant rocket hit a hospital. Last month, it blamed a failed rocket by the Islamic Jihad group for an explosion at al-Ahli Baptist Hospital. The United States made a similar assessment. Palestinian officials and Hamas said Israel struck the hospital, killing hundreds of civilians in a deliberate act.
At Al-Shifa, Dr. Adnan Albursh, a consultant orthopedic surgeon, said on Thursday that if he knew of the presence of Hamas militants or any other “terrorists” in the hospital, he would leave.
“I am a doctor and this is my home,” he said, claiming that only medical health professionals and those who needed help were allowed inside.
Amid fierce fighting surrounding the hospital, Abusada said he feared for the future of the facility and those who live on its grounds.
“We have a large number of injured people who are in the hospital and we have to take care of them,” Abusada said.
“Yes, I’m afraid,” he added. “But it is my duty.”