Hospitals in Gaza risk 'turning into morgues', says ICRC

Humanitarian group is asking for security assurances to distribute fuel, food and medical supplies

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With fuel to run generators running out, hospitals in the Gaza Strip run the risk of "turning into morgues", the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday, as the war with Israel entered its sixth day.

Israel on Monday declared a “total blockade” of Gaza following a surprise attack by Hamas, which rules the territory. Hamas launched thousands of rockets and sent hundreds of fighters into southern Israel on Saturday.

Since then, Israel has cut off electricity and water supply to Gaza, and stopped the entry of food and fuel, forcing the tiny enclave's only power plant to shut down on Wednesday.

“Our understanding is that there is still fuel – but probably only for a few hours – to allow generators to work, including in hospitals,” Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC's regional director for the Near and Middle East, told reporters on Thursday.

"As Gaza loses power, hospitals lose power, putting newborns in incubators and elderly patients on oxygen at risk. Kidney dialysis stops, and X-rays can’t be taken. Without electricity, hospitals risk turning into morgues," he said.

Gaza's health ministry also said its major hospitals have run out of beds as stocks medical supplies come close to depletion.

The territory, home to 2.3 million people, has witnessed the deadliest bombing campaign in the 75-year history of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. More than 1,400 people have been killed and more than 5,000 injured. Israel has vowed to annihilate Hamas in retribution for Saturday's attack, which left more than 1,300 dead and more than 2,000 injured. The militants also took more than 100 hostages.

Mr Carboni said the ICRC requested security assurances from the warring sides so it can safely deliver and distribute aid and fuel in Gaza.

“We need to be allowed to work in Gaza. We need a safe humanitarian space for humanitarian workers to operate,” he said.

“Security is not allowing us to move freely. We have fuel, we are ready to dispatch, but we need security to be able to get it to hospitals.

“With the supplies we have inside Gaza, we will not be able to maintain the civilian population for a very long time.”

Mr Carboni said there is “nothing to justify” the siege of Gaza or taking civilians hostages.

“We've called on all parties, especially Hamas, to treat people humanely, with dignity, to allow contact with families to share their situations,” he said.

He also called for the immediate release of the Israeli hostages in Gaza, stating that there is a “unilateral obligation” to free them and that the ICRC is ready to be an intermediary.

"We are now in contact with Hamas and Israeli officials as part of efforts on this issue. As a neutral intermediary we stand ready to conduct humanitarian visits; facilitate communication between hostages and family members; and to facilitate any eventual release."

Mr Carboni called talks “a sustained engagement,” adding that every day, the Red Cross is pushing and engaging.

“What is happening in Gaza is tough, it cannot continue like this,” he said.

Updated: October 12, 2023, 6:40 PM