British doctors condemn Gaza hospital siege where 'rescue is impossible'

Serious questions must be asked as to whether Israel’s military response is proportionate, Labour's Wes Streeting says

Heavy fighting was raging near Al-Shifa hospital, with Israel saying it had killed dozens of militants and destroyed tunnels that are key to Hamas's capacity to fight. AFP
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British healthcare professionals have spoken out against Israel’s war on Gaza, as hospitals in the north of the territory have come under attack.

Gaza’s Al Quds and Al Shifa Hospital ran out of fuel over the weekend and have stopped operating on patients, according to reports from the Palestinian Red Crescent and the World Health Organisation.

Israel has sought to take control of Al Shifa Hospital, which it says sits on top of a vital part of Hamas infrastructure without providing evidence. The hospital has been ‘encircled’ by Israeli tanks.

Omar Abdel-Mannan, a paediatric neurologist in London who has worked with Gaza’s hospitals, said the injured had become the “unlucky ones”.

At Al Shifa Hospital, babies at a neonatal unit were taken out of their incubators after they stopped working. Some have since died. A co-worker in the neonatal ward told Dr Abdel-Mannan that patients were “dying constantly”.

The hospital’s intensive care unit was also bombed and damaged, according to the UK charity Medical Aid for Palestinians. The charity also claimed that those who attempted to leave the hospital were shot at.

“Power has gone out, and staff are having to hand ventilate critically ill patients to keep them alive,” said the organisation, warning that “more will die soon unless the power supply is restored”.

The hospital has about 600 to 650 patients and 200 to 500 workers. About 1,500 displaced people are sheltering there, according to the WHO.

Dr Abdel-Mannan said the UK should “apply more pressure” on the US and Israel. “Rishi Sunak should have the courage to call for a ceasefire and to stop arming Israel,” Dr Abdel-Mannab said.

He called for the injured to be taken to hospitals in Israel, Egypt and Jordan through the occupied West Bank. “Israel will have to bear the brunt of treating the injured,” he said. He also hoped others would be sent to Jordan for treatment.

He warned that Gaza’s healthcare system will take years to rebuild “It’s not just a hospital, but the whole infrastructure and the community that’s been destroyed. Gaza has become uninhabitable,” he said.

Dozens of NHS doctors and nurses gathered outside Downing Street for a vigil on Friday, commemorating more than 200 clinicians killed in Gaza since the war began.

The British Medical Association, a trade union presenting British doctors said it was “profoundly concerned” about the reports coming out of Al Shifa Hospital. “The failure to protect both patients and health workers in this appalling conflict is an inexcusable tragedy,” the BMA said on Saturday.

“We reiterate our call for an immediate ceasefire across the conflict, the opening of a humanitarian corridor, the immediate release of all hostages, the resumption of essential goods and supplies to Gaza and the West Bank and respect for International Humanitarian Law by all parties.”

Shadow health secretary Wes Street said there were “serious questions” about Israel’s military response in Gaza.

“I think we are already at the stage where there are serious questions about whether the response, Israel’s military response, is proportionate and we can see that through the number of civilian casualties, particularly the number of children dying,” he told the BBC on Monday.

Updated: November 14, 2023, 8:39 AM