The crisis at Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa, has intensified as Israeli forces continue their encirclement, with U.S. President Joe Biden calling for the facility’s protection amidst escalating conflicts in the region.
The Plight of Al-Shifa Hospital
Al-Shifa Hospital, a critical medical center in Gaza City, is facing severe challenges after being surrounded by Israeli troops. The hospital, which previously served as a refuge for thousands, is now struggling without electricity, water, and essential medical supplies.
Biden’s Call for Protection
Reacting to the dire situation, President Biden emphasized the necessity of safeguarding medical facilities in conflict zones. “It is my hope and expectation that there will be less intrusive action,” Biden stated, highlighting the importance of protecting Al-Shifa and other medical facilities under siege.
Humanitarian Crisis Unfolds
The ongoing conflict has led to a humanitarian crisis, with more than two-thirds of Gaza’s 2.3 million population displaced. Health officials reported that thousands have fled the hospital over the weekend, leaving behind hundreds of patients, including newborns in critical condition.
World Health Organization’s Statement
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the WHO, expressed grave concerns, stating that Al-Shifa “is not functioning as a hospital anymore.” He described the situation as dire, with constant gunfire and bombings exacerbating the crisis.
Hamas and Israeli Allegations
Amidst the turmoil, Israel accuses Hamas of using hospitals as shields, claiming militants have a command center within Al-Shifa. However, both Hamas and hospital staff have denied these allegations. The Palestinians have accused Israel of recklessly targeting hospitals, while Israel maintains that Hamas is using these facilities for cover.
International Law and Hospitals
Under international law, hospitals are granted special protections during war. However, these protections can be forfeited if combatants use them for military purposes. The International Committee of the Red Cross stipulates that there must be sufficient warning to evacuate staff and patients in such cases.
Casualty and Displacement
The Health Ministry in Gaza reported that 32 patients, including three infants, have died since the power outage at Al-Shifa. Additionally, more than 11,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been killed since the conflict’s escalation. Israeli forces have suffered casualties as well, with around 1,200 deaths, mostly civilians.
U.S. State Department’s Response
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged the profound impact of the crisis, stating, “The anguish that comes with seeing the daily images of babies, children, elderly people, women, and other civilians suffering in this crisis is wrenching.”
International Response and Diplomacy
Efforts are ongoing to reach a potential deal between Israel and Hamas for a temporary cease-fire. This deal, reported by various international news agencies, aims to facilitate the safe travel of Israeli captives and the delivery of humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians.