As tensions escalate between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in Gaza, a dire humanitarian crisis is unfolding, placing vulnerable lives at immediate risk. The largest hospital in Gaza, Al-Shifa, stands at the forefront of this crisis, with its director, Dr. Mohammad Abu Salmiah, urgently calling for the evacuation of newborns as the facility faces an acute shortage of essential resources. Royals Blue brings you the full story
Neonatal Evacuation Plea:
Dr. Abu Salmiah’s plea is a desperate response to the intensifying conflict that has prompted thousands of people to flee their homes. In a heart-wrenching revelation, he emphasizes that the neonatal unit, housing three dozen newborns, requires immediate evacuation to prevent a devastating loss of lives. Alarming as it is, the situation is exacerbated by the hospital’s critical lack of fuel, rendering it unable to operate essential facilities.
“If we cannot evacuate them immediately… all 36 babies will die,” Dr. Abu Salmiah warns, emphasizing the urgency of the matter. Tragically, a 37th newborn succumbed to the harsh conditions on Sunday. The Israeli military asserts that it has offered assistance in evacuating the babies, but Dr. Abu Salmiah states that as of Sunday and into Monday, no communication has been received from the military.
Medical Aid Challenges:
The complexity of evacuating critically ill neonates becomes apparent as Medical Aid for Palestinians, a U.K.-based charity supporting Shifa’s neonatal intensive care unit, raises concerns about the feasibility of such a move. CEO Melanie Ward acknowledges the intricacies of transferring critically ill newborns and points out the challenges posed by the inability of ambulances to reach the hospital, coupled with the absence of another medical facility capable of receiving them.
In this critical juncture, the limitations of resources and infrastructure become starkly evident. Despite the Israeli military’s claim that it offered assistance, the practicality of implementing a safe and effective evacuation remains uncertain. The juxtaposition of urgent medical needs with the logistical hurdles of conflict zones underscores the complexity of addressing the immediate healthcare needs of the most vulnerable population – newborns.
The International Committee of the Red Cross attempted to alleviate some of the strain by delivering 300 liters of fuel to the hospital. However, this supply falls significantly short of the hospital’s daily requirement of 10,000 liters. Amid conflicting narratives about the availability and usage of fuel, the dire reality persists – the lifeline of medical operations is hanging by a thread.
The scarcity of resources is further exacerbated by the hospital’s depletion of oxygen supplies. Dr. Abu Salmiah paints a grim picture, stating, “Today seven people died in ICU because there is no oxygen for them, and we wait for another day [of] dying every hour because we don’t have any source of oxygen in the hospital.” The convergence of fuel and oxygen shortages paints a dire picture, where the very elements necessary for sustaining life become scarce commodities in the midst of conflict.
The challenges faced by Al-Shifa Hospital underscore a broader crisis in Gaza’s healthcare system. With more than 600 patients currently under its care, the hospital struggles to meet the basic needs of the sick and injured. Hospitals in the northern region, including Al-Shifa, are blockaded by Israeli forces, compounding the difficulty of delivering critical medical aid and forcing medical staff to operate in conditions that compromise patient care.
Military Actions and Hospital Targeting:
The Israeli military’s claims of targeting Hamas militants near hospitals, including Shifa, due to alleged command centers, adds another layer of complexity to the crisis. Counterbalancing these assertions, hospital staff vehemently deny such claims, emphasizing the civilian nature of the areas and the difficulties faced by medical personnel.
Battles around hospitals have forced thousands of Palestinians to flee from some of the last shelters in northern Gaza while stranding critically wounded patients and their caregivers with dwindling supplies and no electricity, health officials said Monday.
The Israeli military has urged Palestinians to flee south on foot through what it calls safe corridors. But its purported drive to separate civilians from Hamas militants has come at a heavy cost, with more than two-thirds of the territory’s population of 2.3 million having already fled their homes.
Both sides have seized on the plight of hospitals, particularly Shifa’s, as a symbol of the larger war, now in its sixth week. The fighting was triggered by Hamas’s unprecedented Oct. 7 surprise attack into Israel, and Israel’s response has brought unseen levels of death and destruction to Gaza.
For Palestinians, Shifa evokes the suffering of civilians. Thousands of people displaced by airstrikes that have destroyed entire city blocks have sought shelter in its darkened corridors. Doctors running low on supplies perform surgery there on war-wounded patients, including children, without anesthesia. One medic shared a photo showing nine premature babies in a shared crib.
“The tanks are in front of the hospital. We are under full blockade. It’s a totally civilian area. Only hospital facility, hospital patients, doctors and other civilians staying in the hospital. Someone should stop this,” a surgeon at the hospital, Dr. Ahmed El Mokhallalati, said by telephone.
“They bombed the [water] tanks, they bombed the water wells, they bombed the oxygen pump as well. They bombed everything in the hospital. So we are hardly surviving. We tell everyone, the hospital is no more a safe place for treating patients. We are harming patients by keeping them here.”
‘A circle of death’
Gaza Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qidra said an Israel tank was now stationed at the hospital gate. Israeli snipers and drones were firing into the hospital, making it impossible for medics and patients to move around.
“We are besieged and are inside a circle of death,” he said.
Israel says Hamas shields itself among civilians and the hospital is a prime example of that, claiming that the militants have a command centre in and beneath the medical compound. Israel has not provided photos or videos to back up the Shifa claims, though it has shared footage of militants operating in residential neighbourhoods and positioning rockets and weapons near schools and mosques.
Both Hamas and the hospital staff at Shifa deny the Israeli allegations.
Despite the dire circumstances, the hospital staff and Palestinian officials make a desperate appeal for international intervention. The surgeon, Dr. Ahmed El Mokhallalati, emphasizes the severity of the situation, declaring the hospital no longer a safe place for treating patients. The blockade, bombings, and military presence have turned the once-safe haven into what he describes as a “circle of death.”
The ongoing conflict has not only claimed lives but has also disrupted essential services, leaving thousands of Palestinians in the north facing a perilous journey to seek safety. The Israeli military’s urging to flee south has led to a significant displacement, with tens of thousands grappling with overcrowded UN-run shelters, lack of trash pickup, and sewage in the streets.
The international community, particularly the United States, has pushed for temporary pauses in the conflict to facilitate the distribution of aid. However, the challenges persist, leaving those who make it to the south facing a host of difficulties including overcrowded shelters, lack of basic services, and limited access to necessities.
As the conflict enters its sixth week, the toll on both sides continues to rise, emphasizing the urgent need for a cessation of hostilities and a coordinated international effort to address the humanitarian crisis that has befallen Gaza.
No Trash Pickup, Sewage in the Streets:
Those who manage to make it to the south face a host of additional challenges. UN-run shelters are overflowing, and basic services like trash collection have become nearly impossible in most areas. The lack of fuel has paralyzed water treatment systems, leaving taps dry and sewage streaming into the streets. Gaza’s sole power plant shut down over a month ago, and Israel’s restrictions on fuel imports for generators worsen the crisis.
More than 11,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and minors, have lost their lives since the conflict began, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza. This figure does not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths, emphasizing the indiscriminate toll the conflict has taken on the Palestinian population. An additional 2,700 people have been reported missing.
On the Israeli side, at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians killed in the initial Hamas attack, have died. Palestinian militants are currently holding nearly 240 hostages seized during the raid, including men, women, children, and older adults. The military reports that 44 soldiers have been killed in ground operations in Gaza.
About 250,000 Israelis have evacuated from communities near Gaza, where Palestinian militants continue to launch rockets. The northern border with Lebanon has also seen heightened tensions, with Israel and the Hezbollah militant group exchanging fire. The continuous threat of rocket attacks underscores the complexity of the conflict and the challenges faced by both Israeli and Palestinian civilians.
The international community, particularly the United States, has been actively engaged in diplomatic efforts to address the crisis. Temporary pauses in the conflict have been proposed to allow for the distribution of aid and the evacuation of civilians. However, these initiatives face challenges, with Israel agreeing only to daily windows for civilians to flee northern Gaza, while military operations continue in other parts of the territory.
Despite the ongoing diplomatic efforts, tens of thousands of people remain in the northern region, facing the dual threats of conflict and the deteriorating humanitarian situation. The toll on civilians, displacement, and the strain on critical infrastructure call for an immediate and coordinated international response to mitigate the suffering of those caught in the crossfire.
The situation in Gaza is a stark reminder of the urgent need for a comprehensive and sustainable solution to the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As the international community grapples with diplomatic challenges, the human cost of the crisis continues to rise, underscoring the necessity for swift and effective actions to protect civilian lives, ensure humanitarian access, and work towards a lasting resolution in the region.
More than 230 People with Canadian Ties Leave Gaza:
Amid the ongoing crisis, more than 230 individuals with Canadian ties managed to leave Gaza through the Rafah border crossing into Egypt on Sunday. While this represents the largest contingent yet, many more individuals are still awaiting evacuation, highlighting the continued challenges in facilitating the safe passage of civilians out of the conflict zone.
The evacuation of individuals with ties to Canada emphasizes the international dimension of the crisis, with citizens from various countries directly affected by the conflict. The global community is witnessing the far-reaching consequences of the conflict, from the loss of lives to the displacement of communities and the strain on diplomatic efforts to secure safe passages for those seeking refuge.
Continued Urgency for Humanitarian Assistance:
As the conflict enters a critical phase, the urgency for humanitarian assistance remains paramount. The challenges faced by hospitals, the displacement of thousands, and the scarcity of essential resources demand immediate and coordinated international intervention. The toll on civilian lives, including women and children, underscores the need for sustained efforts to alleviate the suffering of those caught in the crossfire.
The United Nations and various humanitarian organizations continue to appeal for temporary ceasefires to allow for the distribution of aid, medical evacuations, and the provision of essential services to the affected population. The complexities of the conflict, with its impact on both Israeli and Palestinian communities, highlight the intricate nature of the challenges facing the international community in addressing the crisis.
The situation in Gaza is a dire humanitarian crisis that demands immediate attention and action from the international community. The loss of lives, the displacement of communities, and the strain on essential services, particularly healthcare, underscore the urgent need for a comprehensive and sustainable solution to the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The global community must prioritize diplomatic efforts to bring about a lasting ceasefire, ensure humanitarian access to affected areas, and work towards a resolution that addresses the root causes of the conflict. The toll on civilian lives, the displacement of communities, and the far-reaching consequences of the crisis highlight the interconnectedness of the international community’s responsibility in fostering peace and stability in the region.