Hospitals in Gaza ran dangerously low on fuel on Sunday, endangering the lives of thousands of sick and injured patients as an expected ground offensive by Israeli forces looms.
The United Nations humanitarian office, OCHA, said its monitors expected fuel supplies could be completely depleted by Monday. Hospitals will not be able to operate without fuel to run their generators. Other basic supplies such as food, water and medicine are also dwindling.
“Gaza is drying out,” said Juliette Touma, a spokeswoman for the United Nations’ Palestinian refugee agency Associated Press.
Israel has placed Gaza, home to 2.3 million Palestinians, under siege after a series of deadly incursions by Hamas militants last weekend. Ahead of a widely expected full-scale invasion – troops are currently massing along the country’s border – Israel advised more than a million people in the northern part of the Gaza Strip to immediately evacuate south. Around half a million Palestinians had fled to the south by Sunday, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman said CNNMany of them have sought refuge in UN shelters that can barely cope with the influx.
The Israeli government said Saturday evening it would cut off electricity, fuel and food access to Gaza. President Benjamin Netanyahu said the blockade and offensive would continue “without reservation and without delay.”
Some 22 hospitals caring for 2,000 patients were able to evacuate their “mobile patients” to relative safety, a Gaza doctor told the AP. But many patients, including those who are seriously injured or on ventilators, cannot be transported, and hundreds of new patients are added every day.
This was announced by the World Health Organization in a statement On Saturday, he said that forcing patients and health workers to relocate “to the south of the Gaza Strip, where health facilities are already at capacity and cannot cope with a dramatic increase in the number of patients” would be a death sentence.
“Hospital directors and health workers now face a difficult decision: abandon critically ill patients in the midst of a bombing raid, risk their own lives while remaining on site to treat patients, or endanger the lives of their patients while they are trying to transport them to facilities where they will be treated. “We have no capacity to accommodate them,” the WHO said.
Reuters quoted Hussam Abu Safiya, a doctor at Kamal Edwan Hospital in Gaza, as saying: “If you want to kill us, kill us while we continue to work here, we will not leave.” We need days and weeks to get ourselves to secure another place.”
“The situation is really dangerous,” he continued. Some of the hospital’s younger patients are on ventilators, he said, and “moving these children from this place is giving them a death sentence.”
Dr. Muhammad Abu Salima, the director of Gaza’s largest medical complex, said The New York Times on Sunday: “It is absolutely impossible to evacuate the hospital. There is no place in Gaza that can accommodate so many patients in our intensive care unit or neonatal intensive care unit or even in the operating rooms.”
Hamas’ October 7 attacks killed 1,400 Israelis, most of them civilians. More than 150 other people are believed to have been taken hostage. According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, around 2,670 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 10,000 others injured since the conflict began.