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Hospital in Gaza City halts operations as it runs out of fuel, power, Red Crescent says

A bus carrying Canadian nationals recently evacuated from the Gaza Strip prepare to depart the Rafah crossing on Sunday in Rafah, Egypt. The Rafah border crossing reopened today for the first time since Friday, allowing a group of foreign nationals and injured Palestinians to exit the Gaza Strip into Egypt.  (Ali Moustafa)
By Cassandra Vinograd and Vivian Yee New York Times

The Palestinian Red Crescent said Sunday that Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City was “no longer operational,” as power outages and shortages of fuel continued to wreak havoc on the Gaza Strip’s health facilities amid raging battles between Israeli troops and Hamas fighters.

Israel’s ground invasion of the territory has moved deeper into Gaza City in the past few days, slowly closing in on the hospitals that have provided refuge for tens of thousands of civilians, but that Israel says are shielding Hamas military operations in tunnels below.

The Red Crescent had said Saturday that Israeli tanks and military vehicles had surrounded Al-Quds Hospital, the second-largest in Gaza City, and were shelling the building. It said the hospital had 500 patients and warned that fuel shortages caused by Israel’s siege of Gaza, which has cut off power to the coastal strip and deprived it of fuel deliveries, put the hospital at risk of closing down.

On Sunday, it declared that the hospital, where it said more than 14,000 displaced people had also been sheltering, was “out of service and no longer operational.”

“The cessation of services is due to the depletion of available fuel and power outage,” the organization said in a statement, adding that medical workers were “making every effort to provide care to patients and the wounded.”

The announcement left one fewer hospital available for Gaza residents amid a spiraling crisis. Four others that are adjacent to one another – the Rantisi children’s hospital, Al-Nasr Hospital, and two other medical centers specializing in optometry and psychiatry – were evacuated Friday.

And conditions at Gaza’s main hospital, Shifa, are dire. Thousands of seriously ill and wounded patients and displaced people have been trapped inside, while Israeli tanks and troops surround the compound, with snipers occasionally firing off shots, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, doctors and some witnesses sheltering inside. Nearby, there is intense, close-quarter combat between Israeli troops and fighters from Hamas, the armed Palestinian group that controls Gaza.

The World Health Organization said Sunday that it had lost communication with its contacts at Shifa, where the Gaza Health Ministry said a day earlier that at least five wounded patients – including a premature baby in an incubator – had died as a result of the power outage. Without fuel to run generators, the hospital has been plunged into darkness, the ministry and the hospital’s administrator said.

“WHO has grave concerns for the safety of the health workers, hundreds of sick and injured patients, including babies on life support and displaced people who remain inside the hospital,” the U.N. agency said in a statement. “The number of inpatients is reportedly almost double its capacity, even after restricting services to lifesaving emergency care.”

The Indonesian Hospital in Gaza City was also without power Sunday. Reuters video showed medical workers there struggling to manually resuscitate a young child and relying on battery-powered lights to treat patients.

President Joe Biden’s national security adviser warned Israel on Sunday against engaging in combat in hospitals in Gaza, even though he said he agreed with its view that Hamas uses such civilian facilities “as human shields” to house its fighters and store its weapons.

“The United States does not want to see firefights in hospitals, where innocent people, patients receiving medical care, are caught in the crossfire,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in an interview with “Face the Nation” to be aired on CBS. “And we’ve had active consultations with Israeli defense forces on this.”

In Gaza City, Al Ahli Hospital appears to be one of the few facilities able to accept new patients. Dr. Ghassan Abu Sittah, a British Palestinian doctor volunteering there, said in a voice note Sunday that the hospital had two operating rooms and three surgeons to handle more than 500 wounded people, some of whom had been transferred from Shifa. He said Al Ahli has no X-ray technician or anesthesia, and that multiple patients have died because the hospital no longer has access to blood transfusions.

“You have a feeling that the place is back to the same conditions and the same capabilities it had” during World War I, Abu Sittah said. “The situation is so bleak.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.