July 15, 2024

Israeli troops are closing in on al-Shifa Hospital, where hundreds of medics, patients and displaced people are trapped.

Israeli air strikes in Gaza have killed more than a dozen people and destroyed the main hospital’s cardiac ward, Gaza officials say, as fighting continues in the besieged strip for the 37th consecutive day.

At least 13 people were killed in an Israeli air strike on a home in Khan Younis, Gaza officials reported on Sunday.

The day before, at least “several people” were killed and wounded in a strike at a UN compound in Gaza City where hundreds had sheltered, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said.

“The ongoing tragedy of death and injury to civilians ensnared in this conflict is unacceptable and must stop,” the UNDP said in a statement.

Al-Shifa Hospital surrounded

The strikes continue as Israel steps up its offensive near Gaza’s main hospital, al-Shifa, where health officials say thousands of medics, patients and displaced people are trapped with no electricity and dwindling supplies.

The hospital has repeatedly come under fire as Israeli forces close in on the facility, which it accuses Hamas fighters of using as cover for a command centre – charges Hamas denies. Israel has not provided proof for its claims.

Witnesses inside al-Shifa Hospital told the AFP news agency that “violent fighting” had raged around the hospital all Saturday night.

One air strike destroyed the hospital’s cardiac ward, Gaza officials said, while electricity cuts shut off incubators in the neonatal unit hosting around 40 babies and ventilators for others receiving urgent care.

Doctors Without Borders surgeon Mohammed Obeid said in an audio message posted on social media that two babies died in the al-Shifa neonatal unit after power to their incubators depleted and a man also died when his ventilator cut off.

The Israeli military pledged on Saturday to aid the evacuation of babies from the hospital, noting that “staff of the al-Shifa Hospital has requested that tomorrow”.

Al-Shifa, one of the 16 operating hospitals left in Gaza, was also out of reach for the newly wounded, said Mohammad Qandil, a doctor at the Nasser hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, who is in touch with colleagues there.

“Al-Shifa Hospital now isn’t working, no one is allowed in, nobody is allowed out, and if you are wounded or injured around Gaza area you can’t be evacuated by our ambulance to al-Shifa Hospital, so al-Shifa Hospital now is out of service”, he told the Reuters news agency.

Israel has waged a devastating bombing campaign and ground incursion in the besieged Gaza Strip since October 7, killing at least 11,000 Palestinians, more than a third of them children, Gaza officials say. The UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) says at least 100 of its employees have been killed in the war.

The Israeli campaign has also displaced some 1.6 million Palestinians, over 70 percent of the enclave’s total population, and wrecked much of its infrastructure.

Palestinians forced from their homes now live in dire conditions, often sheltering in overcrowded outdoor camps and in desperate need of food, water and medicine. Humanitarian workers say what little aid has been allowed into the enclave is a “drop in the bucket” compared to what is needed.

Hamas killed more than 1,200 Israelis and took some 240 hostages during its surprise attack on October 7, Israeli officials say.

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