Updated: Nov 17
In a harrowing escalation of the conflict between Israeli forces and Hamas militants, heavy fighting erupted on Sunday near Shifa Hospital, Gaza's largest medical facility. Thousands of staff, patients, and displaced individuals are reportedly trapped inside the hospital with no electricity, dwindling supplies, and reports of gunfire within the compound.
The situation took a dire turn when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected international calls for a cease-fire, demanding the release of nearly 240 hostages captured by Hamas during the October 7 rampage that triggered the ongoing war. Netanyahu stated that Israel was deploying its "full force" with the aim of ending Hamas' 16-year rule in Gaza.
Residents reported intense airstrikes and shelling, including around Shifa Hospital. Israel has accused Hamas of concealing a command post within the hospital compound, a claim vehemently denied by both Hamas and hospital staff. Ahmed al-Boursh, a resident sheltering in the hospital, expressed panic, stating, "They are outside, not far from the gates."
Tragically, the hospital's last generator ran out of fuel on Saturday, resulting in the deaths of three premature babies and four other patients, according to the Health Ministry. An additional 36 babies are now at risk of dying without electricity.
Health Ministry Undersecretary Munir al-Boursh reported Israeli snipers deployed around Shifa, firing at any movement within the compound. Several homes near the hospital were destroyed by airstrikes, resulting in three casualties, including a doctor.
Netanyahu claimed on NBC's "Meet the Press" that Israel offered fuel for Shifa Hospital's generators, but the offer was allegedly refused. The Health Ministry, however, has not responded to this claim.
Despite Netanyahu's assertion of safe corridors and evacuations, the Health Ministry and those sheltering in the hospital have denied such claims, expressing fear of going outside. The situation remains difficult to independently verify.
Gaza's health infrastructure is under immense strain, with Shifa Hospital currently hosting 1,500 patients, 1,500 medical personnel, and between 15,000 and 20,000 shelter seekers. Another Gaza City hospital, Al-Quds, is reportedly "no longer operational" due to fuel shortages, leaving 6,000 individuals trapped.
International alarm is growing, with the U.N. regional directors of the World Health Organization calling for immediate humanitarian intervention to secure a cease-fire and prevent further loss of life. President Joe Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, emphasized the need to avoid conflicts in hospitals where innocent lives are at risk.
As the conflict rages on, Muhammed Zaqout, the director of hospitals in Gaza, painted a grim picture, stating that the situation is extremely dire, with ambulances unable to reach those under the rubble.
The plight of Gaza's 2.3 million trapped Palestinians is reaching a critical juncture as the humanitarian crisis deepens amid the ongoing conflict.