Hundreds of people stranded in Gaza’s biggest hospital were enduring “inhuman” conditions on Monday while heavy fighting raged around them, a doctor said as Israel declared Hamas had “lost control” over the Palestinian territory.
Witnesses reported intense air strikes, with tanks and armored vehicles just meters from the gate of the Al-Shifa hospital, under which Israel argues Hamas has buried its military headquarters — a charge denied by Hamas.
“The situation is very bad, it is inhuman,” a surgeon with Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the medical charity group, wrote on social media. “We don’t have electricity. There’s no water in the hospital,” added the doctor, who was not named. The Hamas government’s deputy health minister Youssef Abu Rish said the death toll inside Al-Shifa rose to 27 adult intensive care patients and seven babies since the weekend as the facility suffered fuel shortages.
A lack of fuel was also hitting the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA. The agency’s Gaza chief Thomas White said operations “will grind to a halt in the next 48 hours as no fuel is allowed to enter” the territory. The World Health Organization in the Palestinian territories said early Monday that at least 2,300 people — patients, health workers and people fleeing fighting — were inside the crippled Al-Shifa facility.
Separately, the Hamas-run health ministry said there were dozens of bodies on the streets of northern Gaza, where the heaviest fighting was raging, saying ambulances were coming under Israeli fire when they tried to retrieve them.
United States President Joe Biden on Monday urged his ally Israel to protect Al-Shifa. “It’s my hope and expectation that there will be less intrusive action relative to the hospital,” he told reporters. Israel’s top diplomat, as quoted by his spokesman, said the nation has “two or three weeks until international pressure really steps up.” Foreign Minister Eli Cohen added that Israel is working to “broaden the window of legitimacy, and the fighting will carry on for as long as necessary.”
The Israel Defense Forces on Monday reported more heavy fighting and again stressed its claim that Hamas was hiding in civilian infrastructure. “IDF troops are continuing to conduct raids… targeting terrorist infrastructure located in central governmental institutions in the heart of the civilian population, including schools, universities, mosques and residences of terrorists,” it said. Teams of Israeli troops ran between jagged ruins in Gaza while air strikes shown on grainy military-released video shattered buildings. Militants in southern Gaza fired a fresh salvo of rockets toward Israel.
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 near-total siege for more than five weeks. About 980 trucks carrying humanitarian aid have been let into Gaza since October 21, according to the UN humanitarian agency. Before the war, 500 trucks entered every day, it said. Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called on the European Union and the United Nations to “parachute aid” into Gaza.
Fuel is in critical need, especially for hospital generators, but Israel has been concerned that any fuel deliveries could be diverted to Hamas militants. Almost 1.6 million people — about two-thirds of Gaza’s population — have been internally displaced since October 7, according to UNRWA. Some people were being allowed to leave the besieged territory via the Egypt-controlled Rafah crossing and on Monday more than 550 foreigners passport holders and nine wounded Palestinians wounded and companions crossed.
Israel’s military said it would observe a “self-evacuation corridor” Monday, allowing people to move from Al-Shifa southward, but admitted the area was still the scene of “intense battles.” The area of fighting “currently includes the area surrounding the Al-Shifa hospital but not the hospital itself,” an IDF spokesperson told AFP. The Israeli army also said its ground soldiers had hand-delivered 300 liters (80 gallons) of fuel near the hospital “for urgent medical purposes.” Al-Shifa director Abu Salmiya said he told Israeli authorities he needed far more — at least 8,000 liters to run the main generators and “save hundreds of patients and wounded, but they refused.” AFP was unable to independently verify his account or Israel’s claim that Hamas forbade the hospital from taking the fuel.