The situation is increasingly dramatic for hospitals in the north of the Gaza Strip, where two premature babies died due to lack of electricity in neonatal care according to an NGO, while violent fighting between Israeli soldiers and Hamas fighters takes place. near.
On the 36th day of this conflict triggered by an unprecedented attack by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas on Israeli soil, 20 of the 36 hospitals in the Gaza Strip are “out of service” according to the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha). Internationally, calls for Israel to protect civilians are increasing.
On Saturday, explosions and heavy exchanges of fire in Gaza City, in the north of this small Palestinian territory controlled by Hamas since 2007, are visible on AFP images.
Five weeks after the start of the war triggered by the bloody attack launched on its soil by Hamas on October 7, 1,200 people were killed in Israel, the majority civilians. In retaliation, Israel launched a war to “eradicate” Hamas and relentlessly shelled the besieged Palestinian territory, plunged into a catastrophic humanitarian situation.
On the Palestinian side, the war has left 11,078 dead, mainly civilians, including 4,506 children, according to the Hamas Ministry of Health.
The situation in hospitals in the north, notably the al-Chifa hospital in Gaza City, deeply worries several international organizations. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reports “incessant bombings” on hospitals in Gaza over the past 24 hours, notably the al-Chifa hospital “hit several times, including the maternity ward”.
“Two premature babies” died after the forced shutdown of neonatal intensive care due to lack of electricity at al-Chifa hospital, the largest in the territory of some 360 km², an Israeli NGO reported on Saturday.
There is also “a real risk for the lives of the 37 other premature babies” in this service, warns the NGO Physician for Human Rights-Israel, while since October 9, the Gaza Strip has been subject to a total siege. Israel does not let in fuel.
The Israeli army claims for its part that there was “no shooting at the hospital and no siege” of the establishment. “There is fighting between the Israeli army and Hamas around the hospital,” adds Israeli Colonel Moshe Tetro. “Even now, if someone wants to leave, they can […]the army can provide coordination for anyone who wants to leave the hospital safely,” he continues.
Children ‘scream in fear’
In a statement on Saturday, MSF demanded an end to attacks on hospitals in Gaza and an “immediate ceasefire”.
“MSF teams and hundreds of patients are still inside al-Chifa hospital,” says the NGO.
“We are being killed here, please do something,” said an MSF nurse in a message sent Saturday morning from the basement of the hospital, where he found refuge, according to the NGO: “My children cry and scream with fear. »
“The situation in al-Chifa is truly catastrophic,” warns Ann Taylor, MSF head of mission in the Palestinian Territories, quoted in the message.
On Saturday morning, Hamas reported that one person was killed and many others injured in strikes on the intensive care building of al-Chifa hospital.
The director general of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Robert Mardini, declared, on behalf of the ICRC, “shocked and appalled by the images and information coming from al-Chifa hospital”.
For his part, the director of the hospital, Mohammed Abou Salmiya, asked “the international community to put pressure on the Israeli government so that it stops targeting hospitals and ambulances”.
“The shooting never stops”
The Israeli army is waging fierce battles against Hamas in the heart of Gaza City, where it says the “center” of the movement’s infrastructure is located, entrenched in a network of tunnels.
The armed wing of Islamic Jihad, an ally of Hamas, confirmed that its “fighters were engaged in violent clashes in the surroundings of the al-Chifa hospital complex” in particular, against Israeli soldiers.
“The shooting never stops, the airstrikes are incessant like artillery shells,” a witness who is in this hospital told AFP by telephone.
According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, “Israeli tanks are 20 meters from Al-Quds hospital”, another establishment in Gaza City, “and there is shooting in the direction of the hospital” where 14,000 people are taking refuge. displaced people.
Israeli authorities regularly repeat that Hamas uses hospitals to carry out attacks or hide tunnels, something the Islamist movement denies.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu affirmed that “the responsibility for any harm done to civilians lies with Hamas”, which according to him uses them as “human shields”.
Despite recurring calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, Israel and its main ally, the United States, have so far rejected these demands, saying such a move would benefit Hamas.
In an interview with the BBC, French President Emmanuel Macron “urged [é] Israel to stop bombings killing civilians. “These babies, these women, these elderly people are being bombed and killed. » There is “no justification” and “no legitimacy for this”, said the French president.
Massive population displacement
Faced with the intensification of fighting in the north of the Gaza Strip, tens of thousands of Palestinians have fled in recent days, on the orders of the Israeli army, to seek refuge in the south.
Israel agreed to make daily humanitarian “pauses” to allow civilians to flee to the south of the territory via a “corridor”, a “pause” which was to be repeated this Saturday, according to the army.
Shelled relentlessly for more than a month and subjected to a total siege, the small Palestinian territory where 1.6 of the 2.4 million inhabitants have been displaced according to the UN is plunged into a catastrophic humanitarian situation.
The total siege imposed by Israel since October 9 on Gaza has deprived the population of water, electricity, food and medicine.
The international community fears an extension of the conflict to the regional level. Since October 7, there have been daily exchanges of fire between Israel and the Lebanese Islamist movement Hezbollah on the border.