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Gaza hospitals face ‘dire and perilous’ situation, WHO says, as at least two have had to stop operations

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(NEW YORK) — Some hospitals in Gaza are in a “dire and perilous” situation, the World Health Organization says, and two — the Al-Shifa and Al-Quds hospitals — have been forced to stop operations amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, said his colleagues managed to get in touch with health care workers at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, which has been without electricity or water since Saturday. A missile had struck nearby and shut down the medical facility’s backup generator, according to a doctor working at the hospital.

“The constant gunfire and bombings in the area have exacerbated the already critical circumstances,” Tedros wrote in the post on X. “Tragically, the number of patient fatalities has increased significantly. Regrettably, the hospital is not functioning as a hospital anymore.”

Al-Shifa, Gaza’s largest hospital, had to move babies from the neonatal intensive care unit after incubators stopped working on Saturday when fuel ran out, doctors told ABC News. Staff said they have been trying to keep the babies warm like they would be in incubators, wrapped up in sheets and having them sleep close together.

Dr. Ahmed Mokhallalti, the chief plastic surgeon at the hospital, told ABC News that three premature babies died when the power to their incubators was cut off Friday night into Saturday morning. Mokhallalti said all of the hospital’s ventilators were back up and running Sunday, but he expressed fear that more people would die at the hospital due to the relentless bombing. Hospital officials said two patients in the hospital’s intensive care unit also died on Sunday due to complications caused by the shelling.

The Israeli military has said it will help transport the remaining infants to safety, but has not specified when or how yet.

Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant has said the Israeli military is doing everything possible to prevent civilian loss of life. Israeli officials have accused Hamas, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist group, of using some hospitals as major centers of operations and the people inside hospitals as a human shield against the Israeli offensive.

In a Monday interview with Al Jazeera, Ashraf Al-Qidra, a spokesman for the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, said at least 20 people — including babies — have died at the hospital over the last three days and described the situation inside the hospital as “disastrous.”

Meanwhile, Al-Quds Hospital, the second largest hospital in Gaza, located in Gaza City, has been blockaded by Israeli forces and is no longer able to care for those inside, Dr. Khaled Elshawwa, a surgeon at the hospital who joined the mass hospital evacuation to the south, told ABC News Sunday evening.

“Patients, families, refugees and [the] medical team all left on their feet,” he wrote in a text message. “About 43 patients, left by foot, along with 5,500 [internally displaced persons] and 65 medical staff. Only bedridden patient requiring ventilation will be transferred by ambulance.”

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society, a humanitarian organization, said it would try to evacuate the most seriously ill patients from Al-Quds on Monday but said it has been unable to do so due to the heavy bombardment and explosions occurring around the area.

The organization later said heavy bombardment and explosions around Al-Quds Hospital are hindering the evacuation of patients and medical staff trapped inside. A convoy of vehicles accompanied by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that had set off from southern Gaza toward central Gaza to secure the evacuation was forced to turn around on Monday, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.

In a statement Sunday, the ICRC called for the protection of civilians whether they were trying to evacuate or stay where they are. Targeting civilians is a violation of international humanitarian law, but Israel has accused Hamas of hiding among civilian infrastructures.

Humanitarian groups, as well as international organizations such as the WHO and the United Nations, are calling for an immediate cease-fire to allow aid such as food, medicine and fuel supplies to enter Gaza. Humanitarian agencies have repeatedly warned of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza amid Israel’s total siege and the air and ground campaigns, and the international humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders has made repeated calls for the shelling of hospitals in Gaza to cease.

In the hospitals that are still operating, health care workers described grim conditions.

Staff members at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, in southern Gaza, said there is an increasing rate of people being admitted to hospitals — and infections are increasing, as well.

“There is [an] increasing rate of admission because many people came from northern Gaza to southern Gaza,” Dr. Hatem Daher, head of the neonatal unit at Nasser Hospital, told ABC News. “So, there is an increasing rate of admission, and we noticed that there is [an] increasing rate of sepsis, neonatal sepsis and meningitis due to crowdedness […] of the people. The situation is bad.”

In the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack, Israel began warning more than one million Palestinians to move to a safer part of the territory, in southern Gaza, as Israeli soldiers prepared what was expected to be a massive ground campaign against Hamas fighters, many of whom are believed to be hiding in a miles-long network of tunnels under residential neighborhoods.

Daher said it’s been difficult to get clean drinking and washing water, as well as fuel for the generators.

He said the situation at Al-Shifa is even worse. Several doctors from Al-Shifa are now working in Daher’s hospital, he said.

“Our colleagues in Shifa Hospital describe a disaster there,” Daher told ABC News. “No electricity, no oxygen, no drugs.”

At Indonesia Hospital in northern Gaza, video verified by ABC News shows medical staff stitching a patient’s head wound by torchlight after they run out of electricity.

Since Oct. 7, more than 1,200 have been killed in Israel, according to the Israeli prime minister’s office. The death toll continues to climb in Gaza, with 11,240 people killed as of Monday and over 29,000 injured, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

In recent days, several hospitals in Gaza said they have been under attack as heavy fighting occurs between Israeli troops and Hamas terrorists.

The Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health said the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) was responsible for a strike that hit the outpatient clinic at Al-Shifa Hospital. The IDF has denied carrying out the strike.

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