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Israel-Palestine war: Sick and wounded face 'inevitable death' in Gaza's hospitals

At least 22 hospitals and 49 medical centres have either been destroyed or forced to close by the 37th day of war, while Israel's security minister hints at occupation of enclave
Newborns are placed in bed after being taken off incubators in Gaza's Al Shifa hospital after power outage, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Gaza City, Gaza November 12, 2023 in this still image obtained by REUTERS.
Newborns share a bed after being taken off incubators in Gaza City's under-siege al-Shifa hospital after a power outage, 12 November 2023 (Reuters)
By Maha Hussaini and Aseel Mousa in Gaza, occupied Palestine and Areeb Ullah in London

Sick and wounded Palestinians trapped in Gaza's last functioning hospitals are facing "inevitable death," the health ministry warned on Sunday, as Israeli forces continued to pound the besieged enclave while remaining fuel reserves dried up at several facilities.

The Palestinian Minister of Health, Mai al-Kaila, told reporters late on Sunday that Israeli forces were "not evacuating people from hospitals; instead, they were forcibly evicting the wounded and patients onto the streets, leaving them to face inevitable death."

"This is not evacuation but expulsion under the threat of arms," Kaila said, adding that there was a "catastrophe unfolding in hospitals, with patients now dying without receiving their treatments, such as children and adults with kidney failure who are perishing at home without undergoing dialysis sessions."

Her comments came as thousands of Palestinians remained trapped at Gaza's al-Shifa hospital as Israeli forces continued to besiege and bombard the facility for a third successive day.

She added that all 3,000 cancer patients who were receiving treatment at al-Rantisi and Turkish hospitals had been abandoned to face imminent death after Israeli forces forcibly evicted them from the facility.

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Speaking earlier, a Palestinian government spokesperson said that a staggering 22 hospitals and 49 medical centres had completely stopped working in Gaza due to Israeli air strikes and Israel's decision to suspend all fuel and electricity supplies to the Strip since 9 October.

"Israeli forces have targeted the intensive care unit in the al-Shifa hospital, they have also destroyed the maternity ward and the operating room," the spokesperson said, as they updated the number of Palestinians killed since the start of hostilities on 7 October to 11,180 people.

He also said that Israeli shelling ignited a fire in one of the wards of the hospital, while doctors were targeted by Israeli gun fire.

"Some doctors have been targeted and wounded while moving around inside the hospital. One person was wounded in the back of the neck," he added.

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Meanwhile, a nurse working in the maternity ward of the Sahaba hospital in Gaza City told Middle East Eye that it was forced to close its doors at the end of last week due to a lack of fuel.

It was the last maternity ward in Gaza City, which now means that pregnant women will be unable to undergo caesarean surgeries.

"There is no place where pregnant women can currently go to give birth. No maternity hospital or clinic is open now," Aya Muhammed, the 25-year-old nurse, told MEE.

"We expect that dozens of pregnant women will die as they will be forced to give birth alone at home."

Eyewitnesses told MEE that husbands and relatives of pregnant women who were expected to give birth were instead roaming neighbouroods in search of doctors to help them give birth at home.

Israel-Palestine war: Many civilians still in north Gaza despite fierce battles
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On Sunday morning, Israeli forces besieging al-Shifa hospital bombed its maternity ward, killing at least three nurses.

"A colleague nurse living in Tal al-Hawa street [southwest of Gaza City] told me she watched multiple bodies of people killed on the street from her window. No one could retrieve or approach them," Muhammed said.

"Those who were injured were left to bleed to death as Israeli snipers were directly shooting at anyone trying to approach them. We are watching the patients and wounded die while we can do nothing to save their lives."

Palestinian health officials said at least seven patients on life support had died since the siege on al-Shifa started on Friday, including two babies. Their deaths were the result of ventilators and infant incubators failing to work due to lack of electricity.

On Sunday morning, the Palestinian health ministry's director-general in Gaza, Dr Munir al-Borsh, told reporters that around 40 displaced people in the hospital attempted to leave through the main gate but were shelled by an Israeli tank stationed on an adjacent road.

Their bodies remained strewn on the street, as ambulance and staff, who were less than 100 metres away, could not get to them as Israeli forces shot at anyone who moved. 

Borsh said that Israeli forces also bombed the water wells in the medical complex overnight. Only one well was operating on Sunday, providing the equivalent of 12 cups of water per hour for 15,000 people trapped inside. 

The intensive care unit was hit again after being struck 24 hours earlier, he said.

WHO loses contact with staff at al-Shifa

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Sunday morning that it had lost communication with its staff at al-Shifa hospital.

"WHO has grave concerns for the safety of the health workers, hundreds of sick and injured patients, including babies on life support and displaced people who remain inside the hospital," the organisation said.

"Patients seeking health care should never be exposed to fear, and health workers who have taken an oath to treat them should never be forced to risk their own lives to provide care."

WHO added that there have been reports that some people who fled the hospital have "been shot at, wounded and even killed".

Palestinians arrive south of Gaza City on 12 November 2023, after fleeing their homes in Gaza City and the Northern Gaza Strip amid the ongoing battles between Israel and Hamas (AFP)
Palestinians arrive south of Gaza City on 12 November 2023 after fleeing the northern Gaza Strip  (AFP)

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Red Crescent (PRCS) announced on Sunday that al-Quds hospital in Gaza is now out of service after running out of fuel.

"The cessation of services is due to depletion of available fuel and power outages," the PRCS said in a statement.

"Medical staff are making every effort to provide care to patients and the wounded, even resorting to conventional medical methods amid dire humanitarian conditions and a shortage of medicine, food and fuel."

The PRCS said it had tried to reach out for humanitarian assistance from the international community, a day after al-Shifa hospital said it would be suspending services.

Israeli military officials have repeatedly claimed, without providing evidence, that al-Shifa hospital is used for military purposes.


Palestinian officials and armed factions have denied the accusation, and 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. 

Meanwhile, the Israeli rights group Physicians for Human Rights said that even if hospitals are used by armed groups, Israel "still has the obligation to avoid harming them".

Since the onslaught against Gaza was launched on 7 October, of the 11,180 Palestinians killed  by Israeli air strikes, more than 4,500 were children, 3,000 were women and 200 were health workers. 

In Israel, Palestinian-led attacks on 7 October have left around 1,200 people dead, including at least 31 children, according to Israeli officials cited by Israeli media.

Palestinians wounded in Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip are brought to a hospital in Khan Younis, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023
Palestinians wounded in Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip are brought to a hospital in Khan Younis, on 12 November 2023 (AP)

Elsewhere in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the Palestinian health ministry said Israeli strikes on a house in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, killed 13 Palestinians. 

Images taken by journalists in the area showed the residents sifting through rubble, trying to find loved ones and possessions. 

Ben Gvir says Gaza occupation 'a must'

Meanwhile, Israeli Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir hinted at the idea of re-establishing settlements in Gaza that Israel dismantled in 2005 and said it was necessary to re-occupy the besieged enclave. 

"Occupation [of the Gaza Strip] is a must. Every time our enemies lost territory, they lost the war," Ben Gvir told Israeli news outlet Reshel Bet.

"We need to be in full control - that's what will deter our enemies, convey a message of victory and allow the residents of [Israeli towns near Gaza] to return home.

"I'm not afraid of renewing the settlements in Gush Katif [inside Gaza]."

Last week, Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel will have "indefinite security control" over Gaza after the war. 

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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