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North Gaza hospitals 'out of service' as bombardment intensifies

By AFP - Nov 14,2023 - Last updated at Nov 14,2023

Palestinians mourn during the funeral of members of the Qudaih and Alshrafi families killed in overnight strikes on the southern Gaza Strip, in Khan Yunis on Monday, amid Israeli bombardment of Gaza (AFP photo)

GAZA STRIP, Palestine — The hospitals in the centre of the heaviest north Gaza fighting have been forced out of service amid shortages and Israeli air strikes, the health ministry said Monday, adding the number of patients dying in the biggest medical centre had risen.

As witnesses reported more "violent fighting", overnight aerial bombardments and the clatter of gunfire echoed across the sprawling Al Shifa hospital at the heart of the Gaza City, now an urban war zone.

The Gaza government's deputy health minister Youssef Abu Rish told AFP all hospitals in the north of the embattled territory were "out of service".

The World Health Organisation (WHO) in the Palestinian Territories warned that up to 3,000 patients and staff are sheltering inside without adequate fuel, water or food, after the UN's humanitarian agency said previously that 20 of Gaza's 36 hospitals have been disabled.

“Regrettably, the hospital is not functioning as a hospital anymore,” said WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, after contacting on-the-ground staff inside the Al Shifa complex.

“It’s been three days without electricity, without water,” he said, describing the plight of those trapped inside as “dire and perilous”.

Israel is facing intense international pressure to minimise civilian suffering amid its massive air and ground operation, which that Palestinian health ministry in Gaza authorities say have killed 11,180 people, including 4,609 children.


International concern 


International attention has focused on the plight of Palestinians, and protests have been held worldwide in solidarity with the 2.4 million under bombardment and siege for more than five weeks.

Only a few hundred trucks carrying humanitarian aid had been let into Gaza since October 7.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees warned on Monday its operations in war-torn Gaza would shut down within two days due to fuel shortages as fighting rages between Israel and Hamas.

“The humanitarian operation in Gaza will grind to a halt in the next 48 hours as no fuel is allowed to enter Gaza,” UNRWA’s Gaza chief Thomas White wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Almost 1.6 million people, about two-thirds of Gaza’s population, have been internally displaced since October 7, according to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA.

Across Gaza City at the Al Quds hospital the picture was also said to be dire, with the Palestinian Red Crescent warning it was now out of service due to a lack of generator fuel.

Tens of thousands of Gazans have already fled from the north of the territory under Israeli orders.

But it is unclear what, if any, provisions there would be for the sick and injured to be transported from Al Shifa.

Israel’s military said it would observe a “self-evacuation corridor” on Monday, allowing people to move from Al Shifa southward, but admitted the area was still the scene of “intense battles”.

The Israeli forces also said its ground soldiers had hand-delivered 300 litres of fuel near the hospital “for urgent medical purposes”.

Al Shifa Director Mohammad Abu Salmiya told journalists the Israeli claims were “lies” and said that, at any rate, 300 litres would power generators for “no more than quarter of an hour”.

Meanwhile, the EU’s humanitarian aid chief called on Monday for “meaningful” pauses in the fighting in Gaza and urgent deliveries of fuel to keep hospitals working in the territory.

“It is urgent to define and respect humanitarian pauses,” Janez Lenarcic, European commissioner for crisis management, told a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers in Brussels.

“Fuel needs to get in. As you could see, more than half of the hospitals in the Gaza Strip stopped working, primarily because of lack of fuel, and fuel is desperately needed.”

The EU’s 27 countries issued a statement Sunday saying hospitals “must be protected” and condemning Hamas for using the medical facilities and civilians as “human shields”.

The bloc demanded “immediate humanitarian pauses” to allow desperately needed aid into the besieged territory.

“These pauses have to be meaningful,” Lenarcic said.

“First of all, they have to be announced well in advance of the implementation so organisations can prepare to exploit them. Second, they have to be clearly defined time-wise.”

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell insisted that “Gaza needs more aid from any point of view”.

“Water, fuel, food. This aid is available, is in the border waiting to come in,” he said.

Borrell announced that he would travel to “Israel, Palestine, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan this week to discuss humanitarian access and assistance and political issues with regional leaders”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, said that hospitals in Gaza should not be turned into “battlefields”.

“Patients who are in intensive care units have no chance,” he said.

“There is no more oxygen, there is no more water, there are no more medicines. So these people are going to die.”

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