Israeli military vehicles advanced to the gates of the besieged Al-Shifa hospital complex on Monday, Gaza health officials said, as medical staff detailed the increasingly dire conditions inside a facility where fuel, medicine and supplies are running out. food for hundreds of patients and thousands of people. of people refugees there.
Without electricity or fuel, dozens of bodies are decomposing in the hospital because there is no way to preserve or remove them, a head nurse and a health official said. And doctors said they were desperately trying to keep premature babies warm after removing them from now useless incubators.
Gaza doctors and health officials have said for days that Al-Shifa patients were dying due to a lack of electricity at the hospital, the largest in the Gaza Strip. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said Monday that the power outage had caused at least 12 deaths. The top U.N. aid official for the Palestinian territories said three nurses at the hospital died on Monday.
Jihan Miqdad, head of nursing at the Al-Shifa emergency room, said in a telephone interview on Monday that patients who were on life support in the intensive care unit were dying because there was little oxygen.
“The situation here is catastrophic in every sense of the word,” he said.
The Israeli military did not address specific questions about its actions around the hospital. It is “engaged in an intense battle against Hamas,” it said in a statement, adding: “This currently includes the area surrounding Shifa Hospital, but not the hospital itself.”
The hospital and other medical centers in Gaza City have been struggling for weeks to maintain operations as Israeli forces approached and supplies of fuel and medicine dwindled. the boss of the The World Health Organization warned on Sunday that Al-Shifa “was no longer functioning as a hospital” and was struggling to provide care after three days “without electricity, without water and with a very poor internet connection.”
Israeli officials say Hamas uses hospitals in Gaza, including Al-Shifa, as shields for its fighters, including using vast networks of tunnels beneath the hospitals. Hamas has denied the accusations.
The Israeli army said in a post on X that on Sunday “delivered 300 liters of fuel to the door of Shifa hospital, but the fuel remains intact after Hamas threatened hospital staff.”
Dr. Nasser Bolbol, head of Al-Shifa’s neonatal unit, said the Israelis left the fuel “half a kilometer” from the hospital, in a combat zone, and did not guarantee the safety of those trying to recover it. Dr. Medhat Abbas, spokesman for the Gaza Health Ministry, said the hospital director had asked the Israeli army to work with the Red Cross to transport the fuel the remaining distance to the hospital, but was rejected.
On Monday, Israeli military vehicles arrived at a gate on the eastern side of the Al-Shifa complex, where the maternity hospital is located, Gaza’s Health Ministry said. Israeli troops have reached at least two other hospitals in northern Gaza, stepping up efforts to empty the facilities, according to Israeli military officials, as fighting around them intensifies.
Al-Shifa was “in the circle of death,” said the Health Ministry, part of the territory’s Hamas-run government.
Ms. Miqdad, the nurse, said that in order for staff to remove the bodies from the hospital, they must contact the Red Cross to coordinate with the Israeli army, but the Red Cross has not responded.
“No one asks about us,” he said. “The bodies are decomposing inside the hospital.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement that it was “constantly in contact” with the Health Ministry and other parties, and that “evacuating a hospital in the midst of intense fighting is an extremely complex and risky operation.” He did not respond to a specific question about the bodies.
Dr. Abbas, a Health Ministry spokesman, said in a telephone interview that more than 100 bodies were lying in the hospital’s front yard, another 50 were inside and about 60 more were in the morgue.
Staff members and some 8,000 displaced people taking shelter at the hospital are suffering from thirst and hunger, Dr. Abbas said. Medical teams survive on biscuits and dates, he added.
Dr. Bolbol, head of neonatology, said in a telephone interview that three premature babies had died after what he characterized as an Israeli attack disabled equipment that provides oxygen to the department. His claim that Israel was responsible could not be independently verified.
Hospital staff members moved the remaining 36 premature babies to the only other department that still had oxygen, but that department lacks the incubators the babies need, she said, adding, “Their lives are in danger.”
Dr. Abbas said medical staff had placed reflective sheets and blankets over hospital beds and placed babies close to each other to simulate the heat of an incubator as much as possible. He said four of the premature babies in Al-Shifa were born in emergency Caesarean sections after their mothers died in the attacks.
“Now they have to survive without their mothers and without electricity or special care,” he added.
Dr. Bolbol said the neonatal unit had enough baby formula for two or three more days. He added that the Red Cross was negotiating with Israeli authorities to evacuate the babies, but that no agreement had been reached so far.
“It’s catastrophic,” Dr. Bolbol said. “I see patients dying in front of my eyes and I cannot give them the slightest help.”
Dr. Bolbol said that there were continuous bombings and attacks near the hospital and that the building where he works was constantly shaking. “It feels like we’ve been through an earthquake for more than 24 hours,” he added.
Medical staff were unable to leave the building to remove the bodies, fearing they would be shot by Israeli forces stationed nearby, Dr. Bolbol said. He added that some displaced people who had tried to leave the hospital in search of food and water were attacked and some died. “Their bodies are still lying in the street,” he said.
The Israeli military did not respond to a request for comment on allegations that it was shooting at people trying to leave the hospital. He has denied such claims in recent days.
Raja Abdulrahim contributed with reports.