The UN’s health agency WHO said on Sunday night that according to the Gaza health authorities, 37 premature babies at the hospital were relocated over the weekend to an operating room without their incubators, with health workers trying to heat the room. According to the latest media reports on Monday, six babies at Al-Shifa have died.
“The world cannot stand silent while hospitals, which should be safe havens, are transformed into scenes of death, devastation and despair,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, reiterating calls for an immediate stop to the fighting.
Al-Shifa is the epicentre of armed clashes in Gaza City following claims by the Israeli military that Hamas has built a command centre under the hospital. The claims have been denied by medical professionals working there.
The UN in mourning
Meanwhile on Monday, the UN flag flew at half-mast at the Organisation’s offices around the world in memory of the 101 staff members of the UN agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, killed in Gaza since the start of Israel’s retaliation for Hamas’ massacres perpetrated in southern Israel on 7 October.
“Today, we join the UN community in a moment of silence to mourn and honour our colleagues killed in Gaza,” UN World Food Programme chief Cindy McCain wrote on social platform X.
At a solemn ceremony at the UN Office in Geneva, Director-General Tatiana Valovaya thanked staff for their sacrifice, highlighting the importance of their work at a time when multilateralism was under threat.
UN guest house under fire
UNRWA said on Monday that its guesthouse in Rafah “sustained significant damage from Israeli Force naval strikes” on Sunday, with no reported casualties.
“The disregard for the protection of civilian infrastructure including UN facilities, hospitals, schools, shelters and places of worship is testament to the level of horror that civilians in Gaza are living every day,” said UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini.
‘Not a target’
No matter where conflicts happen, the UN has reiterated that humanitarians should never be a target, and that hospitals and medical personnel are specifically protected under international humanitarian law.
UN humanitarian affairs coordination office OCHA said in addition to the deceased infants, 10 other patients have died at Al-Shifa, while three nurses were killed amid bombing and armed clashes. Critical infrastructure, including the oxygen station, water tanks and a well, the cardiovascular facility and the maternity ward, has been damaged.
While many internally displaced persons who were sheltering at the hospital and some staff and patients have managed to flee, “others are trapped inside, fearing to leave or physically unable to do so”, OCHA said. According to media reports on Monday morning, thousands could still be inside the complex.
Other attacks on health facilities have been reported over the weekend. OCHA said that on Saturday an airstrike reportedly hit and destroyed the Swedish clinic in Ash Shati camp, west of Gaza city, where some 500 displaced persons were sheltering.
On Saturday night another airstrike hit Al Mahdi Hospital in Gaza city, reportedly killing two doctors and injuring others.
Struggle to survive
OCHA said that on Sunday, for the second consecutive day, following the collapse of services and communications at hospitals in northern Gaza, the Ministry of Health in the enclave did not update casualty figures.
The latest update provided on Friday showed that 11,078 people had been killed in the Strip since 7 October. According to Israeli official sources, 47 soldiers have been killed since the start of ground operations.
Hundreds of thousands of people remaining in the north are struggling to survive, OCHA said.
Consumption of water from unsafe sources “raises serious concerns” about dehydration and waterborne diseases, hunger is rampant, and WFP has sounded the alarm over risks of malnutrition and starvation.
Tens of thousands of displaced persons continued over the weekend to flee the north through a “corridor” opened by the Israeli military but their lives were still at risk in the south amid ongoing bombing and desperately overcrowded shelters.
“Nowhere in Gaza is safe,” UNRWA’s Mr. Lazzarini stressed, yet again.