Israeli forces have killed 13 Palestinians in the cardiac ward of Al-Shifa Hospital on Sunday, with multiple bombs, and snipers shooting directly into the hospital and killing patients. Three nurses were among those killed.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) in the Palestinian Territories, bombardments and armed clashes around the Shifa hospital in Gaza city intensified since the afternoon of 11 November. Critical infrastructure, including the oxygen station, water tanks and a well, the cardiovascular facility, and the maternity ward, was damaged, and three nurses killed. While many internally displaced persons (IDPs) and some staff and patients have managed to flee, others are trapped inside, either fearing to leave or are physically unable to do so.
At Shifa Hospital, two premature babies and ten other patients have died since the power outage that started on 11 November, compounded by the lack of medicine. Another 36 babies in incubators as well as kidney dialysis patients are at heightened risk of death. On 12 November, the World Health Organization (WHO) indicated that it had lost communication with its contacts in Shifa Hospital.
Shifa is Gaza’s largest hospital, and is holding most of the patients with extreme complications in their conditions. Most of the other hospitals in Gaza have already closed. According to a doctor at Al-Shifa, when Israeli forces attacked the hospital, they went after the oxygen supplies first, and showed no humanitarian concern.
Israeli officials claimed they “offered fuel to Al-Shifa, but the fuel was refused”. But the Director of Al-Shifa explained that the amount offered – 300 liters – would only suffice for 1/2 hour of operations, which would do little to nothing for patients. In addition, the Israeli military refused request to have the Red Cross deliver the fuel, instead demanding that Palestinians go to a perilous location at night to retrieve it. Palestinians risking lives to get an amount of fuel that would be too little to help patients is why Al-Shifa didn’t send anyone to pick it up.
On 12 November, the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) announced that the Al Quds Hospital in Gaza city was no longer operational due to the depletion of available fuel and power outage.
On the afternoon of 11 November, an airstrike reportedly hit and destroyed the Swedish clinic in Ash Shati camp, west of Gaza city, were some 500 Internally Displaced Persons were sheltering. The casualty toll remains unclear. Overnight (11-12 November), another airstrike hit Al Mahdi Hospital in Gaza city, reportedly killing two doctors and injuring others.
According to the UN OCHA, hospitals and medical personnel are specifically protected under international humanitarian law (IHL). They must not be used to shield military objectives from attack. Any military operation around or within hospitals must take steps to spare and protect the patients, medical staff, and other civilians. All feasible precautions must be taken, including effective warnings, which consider the ability of patients, medical staff and other civilians to evacuate safely.
Despite this fact, Israeli bombs and mortars have repeatedly targeted Palestinian hospitals in Gaza. These attacks on hospitals have resulted in 100% civilian deaths – there is no evidence, nor have Israeli forces ever presented any evidence, to back their preposterous claims that ‘Hamas fighters’ are located in and near hospitals. None of those killed or wounded in the attacks on hospitals have been ‘Hamas fighters’ – the vast majority have been children, babies and elderly people.
For the past two weeks, the staff at Al-Shifa Hospital had warned that they were running out of fuel to power the generators to run the hospital (after Israel cut off power to the Gaza Strip on October 7th). With over 11,000 killed, and tens of thousands more injured, hospital staff have been stretched far beyond their capacity, and have been unable to access even the most basic of medical supplies to treat the many patients in their care.
According to a doctor at Al-Shifa Hospital, who issued an urgent call for international medical aid, conditions are dire with no morphine, and not even tramadol to provide relief from the intense pain that many patients are enduring.
Dr. Abu Sittar, who was near the site of the blast Sunday, described having to carry out a tracheotomy by hand for the first time in 15 years – on a pregnant woman who was struck in the blast and had a penetrating abdominal wound.
According to the Director of Al-Shifa Hospital, Muhammad Abu Salmiya, two intensive care unit patients had died due to lack of electricity and oxygen. He said the others were at risk of dying if the lack of fuel at the hospital continued, saying, “If this catastrophic situation continues, all ICU patients will die”.
Witnesses inside al-Shifa Hospital told the AFP news agency that “violent fighting” had raged around the hospital all Saturday night.
Doctors Without Borders surgeon Mohammed Obeid said in an audio message posted on social media that two babies died in the Al-Shifa neonatal unit after power to their incubators depleted and a man also died when his ventilator cut off.
The Israeli military pledged on Saturday to aid the evacuation of babies from the hospital, but took no action to carry out that promise.
Mohammad Qandil, a doctor at the Nasser hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, told reporters from Reuters, “Al-Shifa Hospital now isn’t working, no one is allowed in, nobody is allowed out, and if you are wounded or injured around Gaza area you can’t be evacuated by our ambulance to al-Shifa Hospital, so Al-Shifa Hospital now is out of service”.
“We are nearly sure that we are alone now. Noone hears us… The problem is to be sure that we can evacuate the neonatal patients because we have
about 37 to 40 premature babies.”
Dr Mohammed Obeid, surgeon at Al-Shifa hospital, shares his testimony from today⤵️ pic.twitter.com/3oHC5GKzQ0
— MSF International (@MSF) November 11, 2023