Crisis in Gaza: Shifa Hospital Loses Power Amidst Intense Fighting, Raising International Concern

Palestinians mourn their relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, in the hospital in Khan Younis, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. ( AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

Gaza’s largest hospital, Shifa, plunged into darkness amidst intense fighting, marking a critical juncture in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. The loss of power at Shifa Hospital, attributed to the depletion of generator fuel, has resulted in the tragic deaths of five patients, including a premature baby, as medical devices ceased to function. This dire situation underscores the escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza and has drawn sharp criticism from international leaders.

Director Mohammed Abu Selmia’s stark depiction of the conditions inside Shifa, communicated over the backdrop of gunfire and explosions, paints a harrowing picture. “Patients, especially those in intensive care, started to die,” he reported. Abu Selmia’s assertion that Israeli troops are inhibiting movement and “shooting at anyone outside or inside the hospital” could not be independently verified but adds to the gravity of the situation.

Israel has consistently portrayed Shifa Hospital as a strategic Hamas command center, alleging the use of civilians as human shields and the existence of bunkers beneath the facility. These claims are fervently denied by both Hamas and Shifa staff. The Israeli military, while acknowledging the ongoing combat in the vicinity, maintains that all feasible measures are taken to prevent civilian harm.

Palestinian wounded in Israeli bombardment

The crisis at Shifa Hospital has escalated international calls for action, with French President Emmanuel Macron pushing for a ceasefire and criticizing Israel’s bombing campaign as unjustifiable. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken outlined principles for a post-war Gaza, emphasizing no forcible displacement of Palestinians and a commitment to Palestinian-led governance. These principles seem to diverge from Israel’s security-focused approach.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel places the responsibility for civilian harm squarely on Hamas, citing their tactics of using civilians as shields and preventing them from leaving combat zones. Netanyahu’s stance is met with increasing skepticism from allies, particularly following the deadly Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, which killed at least 1,200 people.

The United Nations has reported that since the announcement of evacuation windows, over 150,000 civilians have fled northern Gaza. However, tens of thousands remain, many seeking shelter in hospitals and overcrowded U.N. facilities. Israeli bombardment across Gaza, including the south, has continued, raising questions about the safety of these zones.

The war’s toll is evident in the rising casualty numbers. More than 11,070 Palestinians, primarily women and minors, have been killed, and around 2,700 are reported missing. Israeli casualties include at least 1,200 people, predominantly from the initial Hamas attack, and 41 soldiers killed since the ground offensive began. The conflict has also forced about 250,000 Israelis to evacuate from areas near Gaza and the Lebanese border.