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Israel-Palestine: Israeli forces besiege and attack al-Shifa hospital

Babies and patients on life support begin to die as power is cut off
Patients receive treatment at Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on 10 November 2023 amid Israeli bombardment (AFP)
Patients receive treatment at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on 10 November 2023 amid Israeli bombardment (AFP)
By Maha Hussaini in Gaza strip, occupied Palestine and Huthifa Fayyad

Israeli forces are attacking and besieging al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, risking the lives of some 15,000 Palestinian patients and civilians sheltering inside, health officials said on Saturday.

Israeli fighter jets and tanks have been shelling the area outside the hospital since around 9pm local time on Friday and into Saturday morning.

The attacks have "not stopped for a moment", Abu Mouth, a journalist reporting from inside the hospital, told Middle East Eye.

Some departments and the yard of the medical complex, the biggest in Gaza, have been directly hit, which led to a fire, Abu Mouth said. 

The surgery, as well as the intensive care and paediatric departments, have stopped working, according to Ashraf al-Qudra, the spokesperson for the Palestinian health ministry.

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"We are besieged inside the al-Shifa medical complex," Qudra said in a statement. "We can say that the al-Shifa medical complex has stopped working and is out of service."

At around 6am local time (4am GMT), power was completely cut off from the hospital, leaving patients on life support at high risk of death at any moment. There is also no water, no food, and no internet inside the hospital. 

"We tried in every way to restart the generator to no avail," Abu Mouth told MEE. 

The Palestinian health ministry said one premature baby hooked to incubators has already died. A total of 39 other babies face the same fate in the coming hours if power is not immediately restored, doctors inside the hospital have warned. 

'We are hours away from death, and the world is watching us die'

- Muhammad Abu Salima, al-Shifa hospital director

The lack of power is also affecting dozens of patients on life support.

At least one person has already died as ventilators stop working. 

"Thousands are trapped inside the complex, including patients, medical staff, first responders, and civil defence personnel," Muhammad Abu Salima, the hospital's director told Al Jazeera.

"We are hours away from death, and the world is watching us die, but we are not numbers," Abu Salima said.

Meanwhile, Israeli snipers and armed drones have been targeting anyone moving between the different hospital buildings. 

Abu Mouth told MEE that a 26-year-old woman tried to leave the hospital amid the siege and was targeted by an Israeli sniper.  

"We are completely surrounded and the intense bombing is ongoing," Abu Mouth said.

"There is panic and fear amongst the wounded, sick, and displaced people inside the hospital. They are attacking everywhere and we cannot go out because of the snipers stationed around the hospital."

Incitement against al-Shifa

Israeli military officials have for days incited against al-Shifa hospital, claiming it is being used for military purposes without providing concrete evidence.

Palestinian officials and factions have denied the accusation. Human Rights Watch said it found no evidence to corroborate the Israeli claim. 

Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor who worked for 16 years at the hospital, said he never encountered any sign of a "military command centre" there. 

The Jaffa-based NGO, Physicians for Human Rights - Israel, said that even if hospitals are used by armed groups, Israel "still has the obligation to avoid harming them".

However, Israeli forces have pushed on with attacks against hospitals, clinics, medical staff and ambulances across Gaza, bombing several health facilities as well as denying them fuel and other supplies.

'They are attacking everywhere and we cannot go out because of the snipers stationed around the hospital'

Abu Mouth, eyewitness 

Since the onslaught against Gaza was launched over a month ago, Israeli air strikes have killed at least 11,000 Palestinians, including more than 4,500 children, 3,000 women, and 200 health workers. 

In Israel, Palestinian-led attacks have left around 1,200 people dead, including at least 31 children, according to Israeli officials cited by Israeli media.

The Israeli attacks against al-Shifa escalated in the early hours of Friday. The army reportedly targeted the hospital's maternity ward and outpatient clinic as people were sleeping, leaving several people killed and wounded. 

Many who were sheltering or working in the hospital were forced to flee south in the afternoon. 


Shelling renewed late on Friday as Israeli ground forces appeared to make slow progress toward the hospital.

The sounds of artillery fire and air strikes in the area near the hospital did not cease throughout the night, according to eyewitnesses. 

At the same time, the sound of heavy clashes rang out, presumably involving Palestinian fighters resisting the advance by Israeli troops and tanks. 

The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, said on Saturday morning that their fighters were engaging Israeli forces in "fierce clashes" and attacking their military vehicles at different points across Gaza.

Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, said that troops are "in the midst of ongoing intense fighting against Hamas in the vicinity of the area in question", without providing further details, according to the Times of Israel.

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