International outcry grows over ‘unbearably desperate’ situation in Gaza hospitals

Patients and internally displaced people are pictured at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Nov. 10, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and Hamas.

Patients and internally displaced people are pictured at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Nov. 10, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and Hamas. (Khader A Zanoun/AFP via Getty Images)

Updated November 12, 2023 at 11:23 AM ET

International outcry continues to grow over conditions at Gaza’s biggest hospital around which Israel’s military says it’s been battling Hamas fighters.

Doctors Without Borders released a voice memo from Dr. Mohammed Obeid from inside Al-Shifa Hospital saying the lives of dozens of babies are in peril after their incubators shut down because fuel to power generators ran out.

“We had two neonatal patients die actually because the incubator is not working because there is no electricity,” Obeid said. “So the situation is very, very bad. We need help.”

Obeid said the hospital is treating 600 patients, and that they are also running out of water and food.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CNN on Sunday that the goal is to evacuate all the patients from Al-Shifa. He said about 100 patients have been moved so far and special corridors are in place to help civilians travel out of the fighting zone. The prime minister also blamed Hamas for hindering evacuation efforts.

“We’re obviously treading carefully when it comes to hospitals but we’re also not going to give immunity to the terrrorists,” Netanyahu said on CNN’s State of the Union.

NPR could not immediately verify Netanyahu’s claim of patients being evacuated from the hospital.

The regional directors of the World Health Organization and United Nations agencies recorded 137 attacks on health care facilities in Gaza since the fighting began, resulting in 521 people killed and 686 injured. According to the groups, 16 health care workers have been killed and 38 have been injured on duty.

“Decisive international action is needed now to secure an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and prevent further loss of life, and preserve what’s left of the health care system in Gaza,” the groups said Sunday in a joint statement.

Robert Mardini, director-general of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said on social media that the “unbearably desperate” situation at Al-Shifa Hospital must stop. United Nations humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said there can be “no justification for acts of war in health care facilities.”

Israel has not allowed any fuel to enter Gaza for more than a month. Israeli officials have confirmed that the military continues to clash with Hamas militants in the vicinity of hospitals in the the Gaza Strip, but said Al-Shifa is not under siege.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said on social media that Gaza City’s Al-Quds Hospital is “out of service and no longer operational” because of “the depletion of available fuel and power outage.” The PRCS, which runs Al-Quds Hospital, said hundreds of patients were trapped and 14,000 people were sheltering there.

On Saturday, Israel demanded the evacuation of Gaza hospitals and accused Hamas of using human shields in the facilities.

“The hospitals need to be evacuated so we can deal with Hamas,” Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for Israel’s military, told reporters.

Those who do manage to evacuate still face Israeli airstrikes in southern Gaza, where the United Nations says its shelters have only one shower for 700 people.

Meanwhile, thousands rallied in Israel Saturday night for the return of about 240 hostages held in Gaza.

No cease-fire until all hostages are released, Netanyahu says

In a televised speech Saturday, Netanyahu said there would be no cease-fire until all hostages are released.

He also said Israel was forging ahead with his vision for post-war Gaza, which clashes with Washington’s ideas. Netanyahu said Gaza will be demilitarized and Israel will maintain security control for the foreseeable future, saying that the Palestinian Authority would have no role there.

Washington has tried to discourage Israel from reoccupying Gaza. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the U.S. envisions a Palestinian government in both Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank as a step toward Palestinian statehood, which Netanyahu staunchly opposes.

The Palestinian Health Ministry reports more than 11,000 people in Gaza have been killed in Israeli military operations since the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel that killed about 1,200 people.

NPR’s Juliana Kim contributed reporting.

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