People trapped in Gaza's main hospital

MEMBERS of the Palestinian health sector take part in a rally to protest the collapse of the Palestinian health services in Gaza, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023.
MEMBERS of the Palestinian health sector take part in a rally to protest the collapse of the Palestinian health services in Gaza, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023. AP

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip — Health officials and people trapped inside Gaza’s largest hospital rejected Israel’s claims that it was helping babies and others evacuate Sunday, saying fighting continued just outside the facility where incubators lay idle with no electricity and critical supplies were running out.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dismissed urgent calls for a cease-fire unless it includes the release of all the nearly 240 hostages captured by Hamas in the Oct. 7 rampage that triggered the war.

A day after Netanyahu said Israel was bringing its “full force” with the aim of ending Hamas’ 16-year rule in Gaza, residents reported heavy airstrikes and shelling, including around Shifa Hospital. Israel, without providing evidence, has accused Hamas of concealing a command post inside and under the compound, allegations denied by Hamas and hospital staff.

“They are outside, not far from the gates,” said Ahmed al-Boursh, a resident sheltering there.

Last generator

The hospital’s last generator ran out of fuel Saturday, leading to the deaths of three premature babies and four other patients, according to the Health Ministry. It said another 36 babies are at risk of dying.

Israel’s military asserted it placed 300 liters (79 gallons) of fuel near Shifa overnight for an emergency generator powering incubators for premature babies and coordinated the delivery with hospital officials. But the military said Hamas prevented the hospital from receiving the fuel.

A Health Ministry spokesperson, Ashraf al-Qidra, disputed the account and also told Al Jazeera the fuel would not be enough to operate the generator an hour. “This is a mockery towards the patients and children,” Al-Qidra said.

Evacuated

Speaking to CNN, Netanyahu asserted that “100 or so” people had been evacuated from Shifa and that Israel had created safe corridors.

But Health Ministry Undersecretary Munir al-Boursh said Israeli snipers have deployed around Shifa, firing at any movement.

“There are wounded in the house, and we can’t reach them,” he told Al Jazeera. “We can’t stick our heads out of the window.”

The military said troops would assist in moving babies on Sunday. But Medical Aid for Palestinians, a U.K.-based charity that has supported Shifa’s neonatal intensive care unit, said transferring critically ill infants is complex. “With ambulances unable to reach the hospital ... and no hospital with capacity to receive them, there is no indication of how this can be done safely,” CEO Melanie Ward said.

Only option

The only option is for Israel to stop its assault and allow fuel into the hospital, Ward said.

The Health Ministry said there are 1,500 patients at Shifa, along with 1,500 medical personnel and between 15,000 and 20,000 people seeking shelter.

About 2.3 million Palestinians remain in the besieged territory.

Netanyahu has said the responsibility for any harm to civilians lies with Hamas. Israel has long accused the group, which operates in dense residential neighborhoods, of using civilians as human shields.

Death toll

More than 11,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and minors, have been killed since the war began, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza, which does not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths. About 2,700 people have been reported missing.

At least 1,200 people have been killed on the Israeli side, mostly civilians killed in the initial Hamas attack. The Israeli military said two more of its soldiers were killed in Gaza, bringing the total to 48 since the ground offensive began.

About 250,000 Israelis have evacuated from communities near Gaza, where Palestinian militants are still firing barrages of rockets, and along the northern border with Lebanon.

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