Gaza's last working hospitals face shutdown due to lack of fuel and medical supplies

Officials say only three out of 36 hospitals in enclave are still functioning, one at just 15 per cent capacity

Palestinians wounded in an Israeli bombardment are brought to Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir Al Balah, central Gaza. AP Photo
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest on Israel-Gaza

Two of the three of hospitals still functioning in Gaza are on the verge of shutting down because of a lack of fuel and medical supplies, officials told The National on Friday.

Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the central city of Deir Al Balah and the European Hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis are struggling to continue treating the hundreds of patients in their care, including those with chronic illnesses and those injured in attacks by the Israeli military, officials said.

In the north, recent operations by the Israeli military in its war against Hamas has left Al Ahli Arab Hospital as the only functioning medical facility there, Ismael Thawabta, director of the government media office in Gaza, told The National.

“Kamal Adwan Hospital has been taken out of service after direct shootings at civilians and pressure on medical staff to evacuate. It has been out of service for the second time in a row. Additionally, Al Awda Hospital was besieged for four days to force the medical staff to leave, rendering it out of service as well,” Mr Thawabta said.

“Now, only the Ahli Hospital in Gaza city remains, but it can only provide primary care to some of the wounded and is unable to perform advanced surgeries or provide comprehensive medical services, operating at less than 15 per cent capacity.”

Mr Thawabta said Al Aqsa Hospital and the European Hospital were experiencing “severe challenges in terms of the pressure on medical staff and fuel supply”. Al Aqsa is currently treating more than 600 patients, and provides dialysis for about 650 kidney patients.

Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital spokesman Khaleel Al Dakran said the facility was in a very difficult situation.

“Yesterday, it ran out of fuel for more than six hours, posing a significant threat to the lives of patients, especially those in intensive care, the emergency department, neonatal and dialysis unit,” he told The National.

“A supply of fuel sufficient for two days finally arrived this morning, but we do not have enough medical supplies available.

“The nurses are administering artificial respiration and manually pumping oxygen for the children.”

The UN children's agency Unicef highlighted the crisis facing Gaza hospitals in a post on X on Friday, saying the lives of more than 20 newborn babies at Al Aqsa Hospital were at risk because of the lack of fuel to power its generators,

Iyad Al Jabri, deputy director of Al Aqsa Hospital, said the hospital kept a reserve of 50,000 litres of fuel to run its electricity generators and needed more than 4,000 litres daily to keep its services running, but had been receiving less that a one-fifth of that amount.

“The hospital management believes this is an attempt to pressure medical staff and the already struggling health sector to completely halt hospital operations in the Gaza strip,” Mr Al Jabri said.

“We have been in contact with the relevant authorities and the World Health Organisation, which is responsible for supplying fuel to the hospital. However, there has been no response to our urgent request for immediate fuel supply.”

Medical facilities across Gaza Strip have collapsed due to shortages of supplies and fuel, Tamara Al Rifai, the director of communications at the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, told The National.

The UN needs 200,000 litres day to keep hospitals and other operations running, but the amount of fuel getting into the beleaguered enclave has been “extremely uneven” since May 6, said UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini.

The UN received 70,000 litres on Sunday, another 100,000 on Tuesday, he said.

The power generators stopped working, and there wasn't enough food and water for all those besieged because there were many of us
Hussein Al Masri, patient trapped in Al Awda Hospital

The Rafah border crossing with Egypt, the main entry point for fuel into Gaza, has been shut since May 7, when Israeli forces seized control of the Gaza side at the start of their ongoing military operation in the area.

The Israeli military simultaneously launched raids on northern areas of Gaza, including the Jabalia refugee camp north of Gaza city where Al Awda Hospital is located.

A patient at Al Awda described the growing sense of dread there amid days of bombing and fighting in areas around the hospital before it was finally surrounded this week by Israeli forces.

“In the middle of the week, we woke up to find tanks surrounding the hospital, preventing anyone from leaving. On the same day, they bombed the hospital's fifth floor,” said Hussein Al Masri, a 19-year-old who was being treated for wounds to his leg and abdomen sustained while gathering firewood some time earlier.

“We were besieged for more than a day, and the situation was very frightening and anxious among the patients and medical staff. The power generators stopped working, and there wasn't enough food and water for all those besieged because there were many of us,” he told The National.

“On Wednesday night, the army called for us to leave the hospital with our hands raised and without carrying anything. When we left, they gave us a route to reach the areas west of Gaza, which they claimed were safe,” he said.

“We left without lights or anything, and the patients couldn't move until we reached the Al Jalaa area. There, people met us and took some of us into their homes to sleep, while others slept on the street and stayed there.”

Updated: May 24, 2024, 4:51 PM