Al Quds Hospital out of service as babies on life support die in Gaza

Staff had been keeping their teams updated via VHF ambulance radio

Wounded Palestinians receive treatment at Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza city, which is under siege and has little or no power. AFP
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The Palestinian Red Crescent-run Al Quds Hospital has gone out of service after five days under siege where communications have been completely cut off in northern Gaza.

Staff had been keeping their teams updated via VHF ambulance radio.

“The signal is very distorted, and we often don't know if they're still dead or alive,” PRCS spokeswoman Nibal Farsakh told The National from Ramallah.

The hospital has been warning for days that it is running out of fuel.

“One of the people displaced went up to an abandoned tower nearby that had a generator there. He went there to get fuel to bring back to the hospital. But he was shot,” Ms Farsakh said.

“The struggle now is how to get to his body and bury him in the hospital grounds.”

Ms Farsakh said there has been no water or food coming in and out of the hospital.

“Children have been crying because of hunger.”

The plan now is to co-ordinate with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on a humanitarian corridor to transport the most critical cases to the south, Ms Farsakh said.

The PCRS has only five operational ambulances out of the original 18 it had. Ten went out of service after being struck, one ran out of fuel and two are stuck outside the hospital.

“So it's likely that we will use the two ambulances outside the hospital to transport critical cases, then use our vans for less critical ones.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said it has lost contact with Al Shifa Hospital, the largest in Gaza, which has been under siege by Israeli forces for days.

The roads around Al Shifa are either destroyed or blocked off by Israeli military as the sound of bombardment remains near constant, with its clinics and maternity wards destroyed in the shelling.

“As horrifying reports of the hospital facing repeated attacks continue to emerge, we assume our contacts joined tens of thousands of people and are fleeing the area,” the WHO said on social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

The Israeli attacks on the hospital and its vicinity have led to power cuts to incubators with premature babies inside.

Gaza's Ministry of Health said two babies have died at the hospital since Saturday.

Another 37 are at risk of death due to the lack of electricity.

Israel’s military had earlier confirmed clashes outside the hospital but said troops would assist in moving babies to a safer location. The military says it is in contact with hospital staff.

The National could not reach its contacts at Al Shifa.

There are no blood supplies at Al Ahli Arab Hospital, the only medical facility currently receiving patients in Gaza city, Dr Fadel Naim told The National.

“We are performing life-saving surgeries, only, but people are still dying because we can't get them any blood,” he said. “Otherwise, we're only bandaging people up and stopping any bleeding.”

The blood bank in Gaza's northern neighbourhood of Al Rimal, near Al Shifa Hospital, was under siege, said Dr Naim.

He said there were 300 to 400 wounded people at the facility and only 30 medical staff.

“We're taking in anybody who would like to volunteer,” he said.

In a televised address on Saturday, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected growing international calls for a ceasefire without the release of all the estimated 240 hostages captured by Hamas in its October 7 attack, saying Israel was bringing its “full force” to the battle.

Israel, without providing evidence, has accused the militants of concealing a command post inside and under the hospital compound, allegations denied by Hamas and hospital staff.

Between 50,000 to 60,000 people were seeking shelter in Al Shifa but some have began moving away from on foot, risking their lives, to escape the bombardment.

British-Palestinian surgeon Ghassan Abu Sitta, who has been treating patients at Al Shifa, said the hospital had “collapsed”.

“Wounded and staff leaving in droves. Missile attacks this morning on outpatient department which housed internally displaced,” he wrote on X.

Those inside the complex have been unable to sleep in fear of more air strikes.

“We spent the night in panic waiting for their [missiles'] arrival,” said Ahmed Al Boursh, a resident taking shelter in the hospital. “They are outside, not far from the gates.”

In an interview with Al Jazeera TV, Health Ministry under secretary Munir Al Boursh said Israeli snipers have been deployed around Al Shifa, firing at any movement inside the compound. He said air strikes had destroyed several homes next to the hospital, killing a doctor, his son and son-in-law.

More than 11,000 Palestinians, two thirds of them women and children, have been killed since the war began, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza, which does not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths. About 2,700 people have been reported missing and are thought to be trapped or dead under the rubble.

Updated: November 12, 2023, 11:58 AM