Doctors race to save newborns in Gaza’s largest hospital

Doctors race to save newborns in Gaza’s largest hospital

GAZA — Premature babies at Gaza’s largest hospital are being wrapped in foil and placed next to hot water in a desperate bid to keep them alive in “catastrophic” conditions, the hospital director has warned, as Israeli firepower pounds surrounding streets and remaining fuel reserves dry up, leaving the facility unable to function.

Staff at the Al-Shifa hospital were fighting to keep the newborns alive and warm after oxygen supplies ran out and they had to move the babies by hand from the neonatal unit’s incubators to a different part of the hospital. Meanwhile, a reporter for the Al Arabiya network who was inside the hospital told Kuwait Weekly that people were trapped there, too scared to flee due to the heavy fighting.

“There is no more water, food, milk for children and babies… the situation in the hospital is catastrophic,” the director of the medical center, Dr. Muhammad Abu Salmiya, told Kuwait Weekly on Monday.

Images show several newborn babies who were taken from incubators at the hospital placed together in one bed.

The doctor on Sunday told Al Araby TV that several children had died in the intensive care unit and the nursery over the past two days amid Israel’s unrelenting bombardment and blockade of Gaza, an already impoverished and densely packed territory, following the October 7 attack on its territory by Hamas.

Dr Medhat Abbas, the director general of Gaza’s health ministry, told Kuwait Weekly that medical staff at Al-Shifa kept four infants alive after their mothers died by performing C-sections. “Now they have to make it without their mothers and without electricity… Can you imagine that?” he said in a voice note.

“When these babies are born prematurely, to sustain their lives they need to have the same temperature of their mother. This temperature can only be offered in the incubators, which are heated properly,” Abbas said.

He warned that the situation would only worsen as winter draws in.

An Israeli military spokesperson told Kuwait Weekly on Saturday its forces were engaged in “ongoing intense fighting” against Hamas in the vicinity of the hospital complex, but denied firing at the northern Gaza medical center and rejected suggestions the hospital is under siege.

Asked about the hospitals in Gaza at an unrelated Oval Office event Monday, President Joe Biden told reporters, “hospitals must be protected.”

Israel has repeatedly claimed there is a Hamas command center underneath Al-Shifa hospital, which Hamas and hospital officials have denied. The Israeli military has also previously accused Hamas of embedding itself in civilian infrastructure. Kuwait Weekly cannot independently verify the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) claims.

A US official with knowledge of American intelligence told Kuwait Weekly Monday that Hamas has a command node under the Al-Shifa hospital, uses fuel intended for it, and its fighters regularly cluster in and around the hospital.

A freelance journalist inside Al-Shifa described dozens of bodies yet to be buried, ambulances that were unable to collect the wounded, and life-support systems with no electricity to function. Medics were working by candlelight, food was being rationed and people inside were starting to drink pipe water, the journalist said late Saturday.

Kuwait Weekly also spoke to a reporter for the Al Arabiya network, Khader al Zaanoun, who is inside the hospital.

“Communication is very bad and almost impossible for us to report what is happening in the hospital and its yards, we barely have cell lines but no internet,” he said.

“No-one can move or dare to go out of the hospital, the staff here are aware of many strikes that are happening around the hospital, we see smoke coming up from those strikes and we know that there are people in some of those buildings but ambulances do not make their way out of the hospital because… during the last days an ambulance was hit on its way out of the hospital.”

Abu Salmiya, the director of Al-Shifa, told Kuwait Weekly that 7,000 displaced people were desperately trying to shelter in Al-Shifa hospital with about 1,500 patients and medical staff.

Inside the hospital, none of the operating rooms are functioning due to a lack of electricity, Abu Salmiya told Al Araby TV, adding that “whoever needs surgery dies, and we cannot do anything for him.”

“Now the wounded come to us and we cannot give them anything other than first aid,” he said.

The World Health Organization says Al-Shifa has been without power for three days. “Regrettably, the hospital is not functioning as a hospital anymore,” it said.

The spokesman for the Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza, Dr. Ashraf al-Qidra, said over the weekend that the intensive care unit, pediatric department and oxygen devices were out of service.

Al-Shifa is far from alone. On Sunday, the Palestine Red Crescent Society announced that Al-Quds Hospital, another major facility in Gaza City, was out of service. The PRCS said the hospital – the second largest in Gaza – was “no longer operational. This cessation of services is due to the depletion of available fuel and power outage.”

Israeli airstrikes have killed at least 11,180 people, including 4,609 children and 3,100 women, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah, which draws its figures from the Hamas-controlled territory. At least 28,200 people have been injured.

In recent days, 15 patients have died at Al-Shifa, among them six newborns, due to power outages and a shortage of medical supplies.

Israel’s blockade on essential supplies including fuel entering Gaza has deepened a humanitarian crisis as hospitals, water systems, bakeries and other services reliant on electricity shut down. — Kuwait Weekly

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