Hundreds evacuate through Rafah crossing as Gaza health system crumbles

Hundreds evacuate through Rafah crossing as Gaza health system crumbles

RAFAH — Hospitals across Gaza are running out of electricity and supplies, with staff working in dire conditions while thousands of residents pack into medical centers, seeking shelter from a seemingly endless barrage of airstrikes.

Gaza’s second-largest hospital — Al-Quds in Gaza City — is no longer operational, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society.

In Gaza’s biggest hospital, Al-Shifa, patients and staff are trapped inside due to fighting nearby, according to health officials and aid agencies. The hospital is rapidly running out of electricity, food and medical supplies, a senior official at the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza told Kuwait Weekly on Saturday.

Israel said it opened an evacuation corridor outside Al-Shifa Sunday, but the International Committee of the Red Cross said no one had left through it. Kuwait Weekly cannot independently verify whether any people have been able to evacuate.

At least 826 foreign nationals evacuated Gaza through the Rafah crossing on Sunday, an Egyptian border official told a journalist working for Kuwait Weekly, marking the largest number to leave Gaza in a single day since the war broke out.

At least nine wounded Palestinians also crossed into Egypt, a government official said.

Rafah is the only crossing open during Israel’s siege on the enclave, making it key to regional efforts to get aid in and people out.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed in an interview with Kuwait Weekly’s Dana Bash that the embattled Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest in Gaza, is being used as a Hamas command center, and that Israel was willing to help civilians evacuate.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) issued an urgent appeal Sunday for the protection of civilians in Gaza — emphasizing the perilous situation faced by those attempting to evacuate or remaining in conflict zones.

The ICRC expressed grave concern in its statement for the safety of vulnerable populations, including medical staff, patients, infants, people with disabilities and the elderly, as hostilities escalate in densely populated urban areas, including around hospitals.

“An unbearable human tragedy is unfolding in front of our eyes. People call us day and night, saying they are afraid to open their door for fear of getting killed and pleading to help them reach safety,” said William Schomburg, the head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Gaza. “As a humanitarian worker, I feel frustrated not to be able to respond to these calls, as our teams lack basic security conditions to move in North Gaza.”

The ICRC highlighted the precarious conditions under which evacuations occur, with displaced individuals, including women and children waving white flags, navigating through dangerous areas without access to necessities such as food and water.

The organization stressed the importance of preventing the separation of family members during evacuations.

The ICRC also called for an unimpeded flow of humanitarian assistance to the enclave, as approximately 100,000 displaced people now lack essentials like shelter, food, water and hygiene.

The Red Cross has intensified its emergency response in Gaza, deploying a surgical team and delivering critical medical supplies to support health care facilities throughout the strip, according to the statement.

The organization has also coordinated evacuation convoys for hospital patients and displaced people from northern Gaza in recent days.

In another sign of the crumbling health infrastructure in Gaza, the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah says it has lost contact with northern Gaza hospitals.

None of the operating rooms at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza are functioning due to lack of electricity, the medical center’s director told Al-Araby TV on Sunday.

“The operating rooms are completely out of service, and now the wounded come to us and we cannot give them anything other than first aid,” Dr. Muhammad Abu Salmiya said.

“Whoever needs surgery dies, and we cannot do anything for him.”

The hospital director said staff were trying to keep premature babies at the hospital alive after oxygen ran out and they had to be moved from the neonatal unit’s incubators.

“I was with them a while ago. They are now exposed, because we have taken them out of the incubators. We wrap them in foil and put hot water next to them so that we can warm them,” Abu Salmiya said.

The doctor said several children have died while in the intensive care unit and the nursery over the last day.

The World Health Organization said Al-Shifa was without power for three days.

“It’s been three days without electricity, without water and with very poor internet, which has severely impacted our ability to provide essential care,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote on the social media platform X.

“Regrettably, the hospital is not functioning as a hospital anymore,” he said.

The Israeli military said it put 300 liters of fuel at the entrance to the Al-Shifa Hospital complex on Sunday, but that Hamas had blocked the hospital from receiving it.

Abu Salmiya, the hospital director, told Al-Araby TV that Israeli officials had indeed called him to offer the fuel — which he said would provide power to run the generators for only thirty minutes — but that staff had been too scared to go get it.

The Israel Defense Forces released a video it said showed soldiers delivering the jerry cans to a curbside location near the hospital entrance. It also released an audio recording, purportedly of a hospital official accusing a Hamas leader at the health ministry of refusing to allow it to be collected.

Abu Salmiya said it was the presence of Israeli tanks that prevented collection.

“Of course, my paramedic team was completely afraid to go out,” he said, adding, “We want every drop of fuel, but I told (the IDF) that it should be sent through the International Red Cross or through any international institution.”

Hamas dismissed the allegations and said the Israeli fuel delivery was a propaganda stunt. — Kuwait Weekly

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