Israel says it is homing in on Palestinian Hamas militants who launched deadly attacks last month
The largest hospital in Gaza has ceased to function and fatalities among patients are rising, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Sunday, as a fierce Israeli assault continues in the Hamas-controlled strip.
Hospitals in the north of the Palestinian enclave, including the Al-Shifa complex, are blockaded by Israeli forces and barely able to care for those inside, with three newborns dead and more at risk from power outages amid intense fighting nearby, according to medical staff.
Israel says it is homing in on Palestinian Hamas militants who launched deadly attacks in southern Israel on Oct. 7, and says the group has command centres under and near the hospitals.
The WHO managed to speak to health professionals at Al-Shifa, who described a "dire and perilous" situation with constant gunfire and bombing exacerbating the already critical situation, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
"Tragically, the number of patient fatalities has increased significantly," he said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, adding that Al-Shifa was "not functioning as a hospital anymore."
Tedros joined other top United Nations officials in calling for an immediate ceasefire.
"The world cannot stand silent while hospitals, which should be safe havens, are transformed into scenes of death, devastation, and despair," he said.
The president of Indonesia, home to the world's biggest Muslim population, also called for a ceasefire ahead of meeting U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington on Monday.
"A ceasefire must be implemented soon, we also must accelerate and increase the amount of humanitarian aid, and we must begin peace negotiations," President Joko Widodo said in a video recorded after he took part in an Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Riyadh.
He said the world seemed "helpless" in the face of the suffering of the Palestinians. The extraordinary joint Islamic-Arab summit also urged the International Criminal Court to investigate "war crimes and crimes against humanity that Israel is committing" in the Palestinian territories.
Gaza hospital no longer operating as director says patients, including babies, dying
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Featured VideoPalestinian and UN officials say Gaza's largest hospital is no longer in operation. The director of Al-Shifa Hospital says the facility is out of fuel, leading to the deaths of patients including babies, as Israel and Hamas blame each other for the situation.
Israel says it is trying to free the more than 200 hostages taken by Hamas militants on Oct. 7 and says the hospitals should be evacuated.
The European Union condemned Hamas for using "hospitals and civilians as human shields" in Gaza, while also urging Israel to show "maximum restraint" to protect civilians.
"These hostilities are severely impacting hospitals and taking a horrific toll on civilians and medical staff," European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Sunday in a statement issued on behalf of the 27-nation bloc.
U.S. says hospitals house fighters
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Hamas was using hospitals and other civilian facilities to house fighters and weapons, which he said was a violation of the laws of war.
"The United States does not want to see firefights in hospitals where innocent people, patients receiving medical care, are caught in the crossfire and we've had active consultations with the Israeli Defense Forces on this," Sullivan told CBS News.
Israel declared war on Hamas more than a month ago after militants rampaged through southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, according to Israeli officials.
Palestinian officials said on Friday that 11,078 Gaza residents had been killed in air and artillery strikes since then, around 40 per cent of them children.
The conflict has raised fears of a broader conflagration. Lebanon-based Hezbollah, which like Hamas is backed by Iran, has tradedmissile attacks with Israel, and other Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria have launched at least 40 separate drone and rocket attacks on U.S. forces.
The United States carried out two air strikes in Syria against Iran-aligned groups on Sunday, a U.S. defence official told Reuters, in what appeared to be the latest response to the attacks.
Babies at risk
Israel's military said it had offered to evacuate newborn babies and had placed 300 litres of fuel near the hospital to help power its generators, but that Hamas militants had prevented staff from reaching it. The Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza disputed that, and said the fuel would have provided less than an hour of electricity.
Ashraf Al-Qidra, spokesperson for the Health Ministry, said that of 45 babies in incubators at Al-Shifa, three had already died.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said the strip's second largest hospital, Al-Quds, was also out of service, with staff struggling to care for those already there with little medicine, food and water.
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