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Israel-Palestine war: Israeli troops besiege Gaza hospitals as Arab leaders denounce 'war crimes'

On 36th day of Israel-Palestine armed conflict, Israeli tanks and infantry advance on civilian neighbourhoods in Gaza, as health sector nears collapse
Palestinians fleeing north Gaza move southward as Israeli tanks roll deeper into the enclave, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in the central Gaza Strip, 10 November 2023 (Reuters)
Palestinians fleeing north Gaza move south as Israeli tanks roll deeper into the enclave, in the central Gaza Strip, 10 November 2023 (Reuters)
By Areeb Ullah and Aseel Mousa and Aina J Khan in London and Maha Hussaini in Gaza, occupied Palestine

Israeli forces on Saturday continued to hit the Gaza Strip's biggest hospital, al-Shifa, and besieged it, while troops are metres away from al-Quds hospital, according to Palestinian officials.

Palestinian health officials say at least seven patients on life support have 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.

Dozens of dead bodies, including those killed on Friday, lie in the hospital's yard with no means of burying them. Palestinian health officials say armed Israeli drones targeted them when they attempted to dig graves for the dead.

Doctors say they have no idea what is going on outside the hospital but continue to hear heavy bombing and shelling nearby.

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. 

Follow MEE's live coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict

The Palestinian health ministry said two premature babies hooked to incubators have 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. 

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

"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, estimating that at least 15,000 people in the hospital are at risk of death due to the adverse circumstances. 

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) called for an immediate ceasefire and said on Saturday that al-Shifa hospital has been "hit several times,  including the maternity and outpatient departments, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries".

Palestinians fleeing north Gaza move southward as Israeli tanks roll deeper into the enclave, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in the central Gaza Strip, 10 November 2023 (Reuters)
Palestinians fleeing north Gaza move southward on 10 November 2023 (Reuters)

Al-Shifa hospital is where the health ministry officials coordinate their work, assign operations across Gaza's hospitals, and provide daily briefs to the media. Health officials say they can no longer provide any of these services due to electricity and internet outages, which could mean the collapse of the health system in the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Red Crescent says that Israeli attacks on Gaza's al-Quds hospital have intensified. 

"Tanks are now less than 20 metres away from the hospital, the hospital has been surrounded by Israeli forces and people are trapped inside. The situation is very dangerous, with live fire targeting the hospital from all directions. There are 14,000 people inside the hospital, most of them women and children," she said. 

Bader Khalil, one of the medics still at al-Shifa hospital until an Israeli ultimatum on Thursday, told MEE that direct attacks on the hospital have been "ongoing for 24 hours" since Thursday, 9 November. 

"Thursday was a very violent night," he said.

"There was direct bombing on the hospital, and cars parked outside were set alight. When the sun rose, the bombing continued on the hospital's maternity and women's wards. The Israeli army called us, mentioning us by name, and told us to move to the south, they said we have from 9am until 4pm.

'On our way to the south there were dead bodies, limbs, of humans and animals along the way. We saw buildings destroyed'

- Bader Khalil, a Palestinian doctor

"People got scared and they started to leave the hospital, but the bombing continued, and it started to worsen. Us doctors decided to leave with people. There's no transport so we had to walk in the thousands until we got to a certain point to find a car before walking for miles again. After that, armed Israeli police, around 20 of them, searched us.

"On our way to the south there were dead bodies, limbs, of humans and animals along the way We saw buildings destroyed," he said.

"We had to walk with our ID held up in the air so the Israeli army could see it. We weren't allowed to make eye contact with the police or tanks. One man didn't have his ID up in the air, and he and all those around him were stopped and searched. Until now we don’t know if he was killed or set free."

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.

During the hostilities, the Geneva-based Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said that, as of Saturday, Israeli attacks have resulted in the total destruction of 66 mosques and partial damage to 146 others, accounting for about 20 percent of all mosques in the Gaza Strip. Additionally, three historic churches have suffered damage in various areas of the Strip.

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. 

The Palestinian health ministry said early on Saturday that 198 medical personnel in Gaza have been killed, 53 ambulances destroyed, and 21 hospitals have been put out of service since hostilities broke out on 7 October.

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.


Elsewhere, leaders attending the Arab-Islamic emergency summit in Riyadh on Saturday have said that Israeli aggression in Gaza amounts to "war crimes, barbaric and inhumane massacres by the occupation government".

The leaders rejected calling the aggression a "war" or "self defence".

Those attending the summit included Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, Egypt's President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, Jordan's King Abdullah II, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Arab leaders and Iran's president are in the Saudi capital on November 11, for a summit meeting expected to underscore demands that Israel's war in Gaza end before the violence draws in other countries.
Arab leaders and Iran's president in the Saudi capital on 11 November, for a meeting on Israel's war in Gaza (AFP)

In Lebanon, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Saturday made his second speech since the start of the conflict, calling for increased pressure on the US "because it is the one holding the decision in the first place".

"To the Americans, I say: if you want the secondary fronts to stop, you must cease the aggression on Gaza," he said. 

"The most important thing at the moment is the change in world opinion regarding Israel, which is killing thousands of children and women."

He also said that Israel "seeks revenge without moral, legal or humanitarian limits. This demonstrates the nature of this entity."

Tens of thousands in London protest for Palestine

In London, tens of thousands took to the streets on Saturday to demand a ceasefire. 

The protest came after British government members sought to ban the pro-Palestine demonstration as it coincided with Armistice Day commemorations. 

Earlier, local news reports said far-right activists had clashed with police in Central London. 

Protesters, slowly making their way past Marble Arch near the end of Edgeware Road, chanted: "Israel is a terrorist state, free, free Palestine."

London protest for Palestine on 11 November 2023 (MEE)
London protest for Palestine on 11 November 2023 (MEE)

Zoe Whittington travelled from South London with her partner and 17-month-old son. 

"I can't stand by and be complicit in what is going on. I believe in peace, and I believe in humanity," she told MEE. 

"I can't stop by watching children and civilians being persecuted and killed in the way that they are.

"I want my son to live in a world that is free of this kind of thing and I think it's really important he is here with me today." 

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