As outrage grows over reports of babies dying and the excavation of a mass grave at Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital, Israel has publicly expressed its desire to ease the crisis there – not by ending the siege, but by providing relief of fuel and mobile incubators.

On Sunday evening, the Israel Defense Forces released footage that appeared to show soldiers deposing 300 liters (about 79 gallons) of fuel at the entrance to Al-Shifa and announced an evacuation route for people in the complex to escape. On Monday, assurances that the IDF would coordinate the delivery of incubators to Al-Shifa came after reports that premature babies had to be removed from their incubators due to a lack of electricity. Then on Tuesday the IDF shared a photo A female soldier helps load mobile incubators into a van that will be used to transport at-risk infants from the hospital, according to an IDF spokesman.

“We are trying to install incubators that can help transport babies from Shifa Hospital to other locations in the south, which will help protect the babies in the hospital,” said IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.

The IDF said in a briefing later on Tuesday that the incubators came from Israel’s Tel Hashomer Hospital and were “intended to move premature babies to a safer place.” When asked how they will be delivered to Al-Shifa, spokesman Lt. Col. Amnon Shefler said coordination with the hospital is “not yet complete.”

Dr. Ahmed El Mokhallalati, a plastic surgeon at Al-Shifa, said the hospital had not yet received a “real offer” from the IDF to evacuate the babies.

Israeli forces shared an image on Tuesday that they say shows an attempt to transport incubators from Israel to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza. @IDF about X

Gaza’s hospitals, particularly Al-Shifa, have captured the world’s attention and become one of the war’s largest and most controversial storylines as they run out of fuel and resources and an overwhelming influx of patients are injured by Israeli airstrikes. Israel has repeatedly claimed that Hamas is hiding in tunnels beneath Gaza’s hospitals, including under Al-Shifa – which both Hamas and hospital staff have denied. But images of endangered babies and desperate pleas from Al-Shifa’s medical staff for fuel to keep the hospital running have drawn widespread public sympathy.

President Joe Biden said Monday that he hopes and expects there will be “less intrusive measures compared to the hospital” and that the hospital “needs to be protected.”

Israeli officials appear keenly aware that the world is watching in dismay.

“The IDF remains faithful to its moral and professional responsibility to distinguish between civilians and Hamas terrorists,” the army said in a statement announcing the transfer of incubators.

However, Al-Shifa doctors and Palestinian Health Ministry spokesmen have pointed out that they believe there are shortcomings in Israel’s offerings.

A ministry spokesman told Reuters on Tuesday that it had no objection to babies being evacuated from Al-Shifa to a hospital in Egypt, the West Bank or even Israel, but there was no way to ensure that this would happen amid the fighting could certainly happen. Israel has held four-hour daily humanitarian pauses during fighting in northern Gaza and urged residents to evacuate south, although southern Gaza has also faced significant bombardment.

In a photo by Dr. Ahmed El Mokhallalati, babies lie side by side at Al-Shifa Hospital.Dr. Ahmed El Mokhallalati

The Red Cross, meanwhile, said it was in contact with both parties regarding Al-Shifa, but that no specific plans or decisions had been made regarding a transfer of the newborns involving the organization.

Should an evacuation fail, it is not clear how the delivery of incubators would help save the lives of premature babies when Al-Shifa has no electricity to power them – the reason they were removed from the incubators in the first place.

NBC News also could not verify when the incubators might be delivered or how the Israeli army would get them to Al-Shifa given the violence in the area, which hospital staff said made them fearful of venturing outside.

The promised evacuation route from the hospital does not appear to have changed the situation – doctors in Al-Shifa said on Monday that they were not aware of anyone leaving the hospital in the previous two days.

Dr. Nidal Abu Hadrus, a neurosurgeon in Al-Shifa, said on Monday that it was impossible for people to leave the building as bombing and gunfire could be heard outside.

“It’s not safe to move out. It’s not safe to stay. We don’t know what to do,” he said.

Although many people were evacuated from Al-Shifa early in the conflict, fighting in the area has intensified since Friday, and the World Health Organization said 600 patients remained there as of Monday. El Mokhallalati estimated the number at about 700 and said there were also 700 personnel and 2,000 to 3,000 civilians there seeking protection. Israel has denied that Al-Shifa is under siege.

Regarding the 300 liters of fuel left by Israel at the entrance to the hospital, a doctor said on Sunday that Al-Shifa employees had not retrieved them because the amount was practically a drop in the ocean. According to Dr. According to Marwan Abusada, a surgeon at the hospital and head of international cooperation at the Ministry of Health, at least 10,000 liters per day (2,640 gallons) would be needed to run vital parts of the hospital.

An Israel Defense Forces image shows a soldier carrying containers that the military said contain fuel for Al-Shifa Hospital on Sunday. Israeli Army / via Reuters

The IDF claimed that Hamas ordered hospital staff not to collect the fuel. On Tuesday it said the delivery was only intended to “buy more time” to save the lives of people in the hospital – especially babies and children – and not to run the entire hospital.

Al-Shifa was forced to bury his dead in a mass grave inside the complex on Tuesday, with around 180 bodies buried there, El Mokhallalati said.

The hospital’s director, Midhat Abbas, said the bodies had begun to decompose.

The hospital has “turned into a real cemetery for the sick and wounded,” he said.

Yuliya Talmazan reported from London and Chantal Da Silva from Tel Aviv.

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