The Israeli army said on Sunday it was ready to evacuate babies from Gaza’s largest hospital, but Palestinian officials said people inside were still trapped, two newborns were dead and dozens were at risk from a power outage and heavy fighting nearby.
Al-Shifa and other hospitals in the northern Gaza Strip, at the heart of Israel’s months-long war to destroy Hamas and release hostages held by the militants, were barely able to care for patients. More people are injured every day by intense Israeli bombings.
Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra told Reuters from inside the largest hospital, Al-Shifa, that Israeli fire did not directly hit the hospital overnight but was “terrorizing medical officials and civilians alike.”
Israel’s chief military spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said on Saturday that the Israeli military would help evacuate babies from the hospital at the request of personnel there. Al-Qidra had said there were 45 babies in total and two had already died.
Asked about the evacuations, Al-Qidra said: “We were not informed of a mechanism to move the babies to a safer hospital. So far we are praying for their safety and that we don’t lose any more of them.”
A young boy, Mosab Subeih, was brought to the Indonesian hospital in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip from a house that had been hit by an Israeli rocket.
“He has a direct injury to the head and is bleeding and we have no operations,” said one of the medics who treated him with a manual ventilator because the power was out.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said medical staff at another hospital in northern Gaza, Al-Quds, were struggling to care for people there because there was little medicine, food and water.
“Al-Quds Hospital has been cut off from the world for the past six to seven days. No way in, no way out,” Tommaso Della Longa, spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told Reuters.
Shifa is also out of reach for the newly injured, said Mohammad Qandil, a doctor at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip who is in contact with colleagues there.
“Shifa Hospital is not functioning now, no one is allowed in, no one is allowed out, and if you are wounded or injured in Gaza, you cannot be evacuated to Shifa Hospital with our ambulance, so Shifa Hospital is now closed.” service,” he told Reuters.
On Sunday, Israel said people from three hospitals in northern Gaza, including Shifa, could be safely evacuated through one of its exits. Hospital director Mohammad Abu Selmeyah told Al Arabiya TV that there was no safe exit.
Cross to open
As the humanitarian situation worsened across the Gaza Strip, 80 foreigners and several injured Palestinians entered Egypt in the first evacuations since Friday, four Egyptian security sources said. Poland said 18 of them were Polish citizens.
Israeli officials say very little aid has reached Gaza since Israel declared war on Hamas more than a month ago after militants rampaged across southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people and taking more than 200 hostage.
Palestinian officials said Friday that 11,078 Gazans have been killed by air and artillery strikes since then, about 40% of them children.
International aid groups say the disease is spreading among evacuees crammed into schools and other shelters, living on tiny amounts of food and water.
Some countries have moved to delivering aid by parachute; Jordan said it airdropped a second load into a field hospital early Sunday.
Hamas said it had completely or partially destroyed more than 160 Israeli military targets in Gaza in the past 48 hours, including more than 27 tanks and vehicles. An Israeli military spokesman said Hamas had lost control of the northern Gaza Strip.
At a news conference late Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the deaths of five more Israeli soldiers in Gaza. The Israeli military says 46 people have been killed since it began its ground operations there.
Israel renews evacuation calls
Residents reported increased fighting around the Al-Shati refugee camp on the northern Gaza coast. The Israeli military said it had killed several militants there and urged civilians to use a four-hour lull to evacuate south.
Jamila, 54, said from Gaza City that she and her family could hear the roar of tanks operating in the streets 700 meters away.
“During the day people try to look for essentials like bread and water, and at night they try to stay alive,” she said by phone.
“We hear explosions all night long, sometimes we can see that some of these explosions are exchanges of fire between the resistance fighters and the Israeli forces.”
The mother of six said her family was afraid to leave.
“We hear a lot of bombings in the south and there is no food. Things there seem no different from our situation here,” she said.
Palestinian health authorities said 13 people were killed in an Israeli airstrike on a house in Khan Younis on Sunday.
Reports of possible hostage taking
Israel has said doctors, patients and thousands of evacuees who have sought refuge in hospitals in northern Gaza must leave the country so that what it says are Hamas command centers beneath and around them can be destroyed. Hamas denies using hospitals in this way.
Al Shifa officials told Reuters there had been continuous bombardment for more than 24 hours. Most of the hospital staff and people staying there had left the hospital, but 500 patients remained behind.
The World Health Organization expressed “grave concern” for the safety of everyone trapped there by the fighting and said it had lost communication with its contacts at the hospital.
Israel’s three major television news networks said on Saturday there was some progress in releasing hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, but there was little sign of it on Sunday. They did not cite any named sources and there was no public comment from Hamas or Israel on the reports.
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