Israel faced mounting pressure from Western allies to stop the killing of civilians in Gaza as its bombardment and ground offensive forced most hospitals to close and pushed the strip’s health system to the brink of collapse.
French President Emmanuel Macron called on Israel on Friday to stop killing babies and women, becoming the first leader of a major Western country to call for a ceasefire after more than a month of fierce fighting.
“De facto – today civilians are being bombed – de facto,” he said in an interview with the BBC. “These babies, these ladies, these old people are being bombed and killed. So there is no reason for that and no legitimacy. So we call on Israel to stop.”
Macron’s comments followed a warning from Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, that “far too many Palestinians” had been killed in the fighting as the Jewish state stepped up its operations in and around hospitals in Gaza, where the UN said “several” had got direct hits on Friday.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said world leaders should condemn Hamas, not Israel, for the harm to civilians. “Israel entered the war because of that terrorist organization’s brutal murder of hundreds of Israelis and held more than 200 Israelis hostage,” he said.
Arab and Muslim leaders called for “break [of] the siege of Gaza” and that humanitarian aid be brought into the territory “immediately” after an emergency summit in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.
Gaza’s medical authorities announced on Saturday that the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, the largest hospital in the enclave, had been forced to suspend operations because it had run out of fuel for its generators.
Speaking from the hospital on Saturday to Al Jazeera TV against the sound of shelling, Ashraf al-Qudra, Gaza’s health spokesman, said “the last generator in the hospital had stopped completely”.
He added that movement around the large hospital complex, which he described as surrounded by Israeli tanks, was no longer possible due to Israeli attacks.
The UN humanitarian arm OCHA said 20 of the 36 hospitals in Gaza had been forced to cease operations as a result of the conflict. It added that by midday on Friday, Israeli ground forces had surrounded four hospitals in the al-Nasr area of Gaza City. Doctors Without Borders said on Saturday that hospitals had been “under relentless bombardment” over the past 24 hours.
Israel launched its assault on Gaza after Hamas militants carried out the deadliest ever attack on Israel last month, killing more than 1,200 people, most of them civilians, according to Israeli officials.
Israel’s bombardment of the impoverished enclave has killed more than 11,100 people, including more than 4,500 children and over 3,000 women, according to Palestinian health officials.
It has also limited supplies of fuel, electricity, food and water to Gaza, which is home to 2.3 million people. people, which has caused a humanitarian disaster in the area.
Israel says it is operating against hospitals because Hamas uses them as bases. Hamas, which has controlled the Strip since 2007, has denied this.
Robert Mardini, the director general of the Red Cross, said the organization was “shocked and appalled” by the pictures and reports from Shifa.
Mai al-Kaila, the Palestinian Authority’s health minister in Gaza, said 39 babies were at risk of dying at Shifa Hospital due to a lack of electricity, oxygen and medicine.
Mohamed Abu Silmeyeh, director of the hospital, told Al Jazeera TV that injured people were still being brought in, “but we cannot operate on them because all the operating theaters are completely closed and without power”.
He said between 500-600 patients were trapped in the hospital as well as 800 staff and around 15,000 displaced people. Health officials said two infants had died due to a lack of power at the hospital.
“Medical teams use primitive methods to hold [infants] heat, like wrapping them in cellophane and giving them artificial respiration, but it will not continue for long and I expect more people to die in the incubator and intensive care units,” said Abu Silmeyeh.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah vowed that the Lebanese paramilitary group and other Iran-backed factions will continue to attack Israel as long as the war in Gaza rages on.
Hassan Nasrallah said on Saturday that it had “upgraded” its attacks by using new weapons and had diversified its targets inside Israel.
“This front will remain active,” Nasrallah said in his second televised address since Israel declared war on Hamas. He added that “time” and “patience” were on Hezbollah’s side.
At least 70 Hezbollah fighters have been killed in clashes with Israeli forces. But the exchanges have largely been contained to the borderlands, a sign that both sides are reluctant to be drawn into a wider conflict.
Last week, Nasrallah said Hezbollah would consider “all options” in its fight against Israel, but stopped short of declaring all-out war.
Nasrallah maintained that position on Saturday, but left open the possibility of a full-scale confrontation that could include allied forces in Yemen, Syria and Iraq.
“In recent days, we have witnessed a series of threats” from leading Israeli politicians, Nasrallah said. “Every day we make our assessments. Ours will remain a front of pressure.”
He also praised attacks on Israel and on US troops stationed in the region by the constellation of Iran-backed Shia militias known as the Axis of Resistance in Iraq and Syria, as well as the Houthis in Yemen.
“To the Americans, I say: If you want these operations to stop, if you don’t want this to be a regional war, then you have to stop the war on Gaza,” Nasrallah said.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned Hezbollah against “dragging Lebanon into a possible war”. He added: “If [Hizbollah] will make such mistakes here, the first to pay the price will be the citizens. What we can do in Gaza, we can also do in Beirut.”
Additional reporting by Samer Al-Atrush