Doctors Race to Save Newborns as Israel Says It's Battling Hamas Around Gaza's Largest Hospital
Newborns are placed in bed after being taken off incubators in Gaza’s Al Shifa hospital after power outage, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Gaza City, Gaza November 12, 2023 in this still image obtained by REUTERS.

Israel’s bombardment of Gaza continues to push the tiny territory’s already struggling hospitals to the brink of collapse. Doctors at Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest medical facility in Gaza, are engaged in a desperate battle to save premature babies as fighting rages outside.

Wrapping Newborns in Foil for Warmth

With fuel reserves depleted and incubators no longer functioning, staff at Al-Shifa have resorted to desperate measures. Newborn babies are being wrapped in foil and placed beside hot water in an attempt to keep them alive, according to hospital director Dr. Muhammad Abu Salmiya.

“The situation in the hospital is catastrophic,” Dr. Abu Salmiya warned in an interview with CNN. Oxygen supplies have run out, forcing medics to manually move infants from the neonatal unit. Several children have reportedly died in the intensive care unit and nursery in recent days as conditions deteriorate.

Trapped Patients and Staff

An estimated 7,000 displaced people have sought shelter at Al-Shifa alongside 1,500 patients and medical workers, but none can safely leave as fighting rages outside. A journalist inside the hospital told CNN people are “too scared to flee” due to constant shelling. Operating rooms lay dark and inoperable without electricity to power life-saving equipment.

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Deaths in the ICU

“Whoever needs surgery dies, and we cannot do anything for him,” Dr. Abu Salmiya lamented to Al Arabiya TV. Several children lost their lives in the intensive care unit over the past 48 hours as the hospital became cut off without fuel or supplies. Water, food and milk for pediatric patients have likewise run dangerously low.

No Evacuation in Sight

While the IDF claims to have reopened evacuation corridors, moving 700 critical patients remains an impossible task, according to Hamas Health Minister Dr. Munir Al-Bursh. With no international coordination or guarantee of safety, transporting the ill and premature newborns risks certain death, he warned. Medical workers have refused an apparent IDF evacuation order out of concern for their patients’ lives.

Claims of a Hamas Headquarters

The IDF alleges a Hamas command center lies beneath Al-Shifa, which hospital administrators strongly deny. CNN has been unable to independently verify these claims. Israeli forces acknowledge engaging in “intense fighting” around the medical facility but deny targeting it directly. However, the prospect of rescue or escape for trapped civilians seems remote as shelling continues.

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A Dire Situation Made Worse

Long besieged by an Israeli blockade, Gaza’s infrastructure and hospitals were already overwhelmed prior to this latest bombardment. Al-Shifa and other centers now teeter on total collapse with dwindling fuel keeping lights on and machines operating. Over 11,000 Palestinians have lost their lives so far, including over 4,500 children and 3,000 women, as the humanitarian catastrophe deepens.

A Stunt or Necessary Aid?

Further muddying the situation, the IDF claims delivering 300 liters of fuel to Al-Shifa but Hamas rejected it—an assertion dismissed as propaganda. Hospital administrators say the meager amount would power generators for just 30 minutes and demanded multiple daily fuel shipments through neutral organizations. For the time being, patients and staff persevere by candlelight amid the ruins of Gaza’s shattered health system.

Speaking Out Amid the Bombs

Despite the immense dangers, a handful of courageous journalists remain embedded at Al-Shifa to bear witness. “We barely have cell lines but no internet,” Al Arabiya’s Khader al Zaanoun told CNN, describing smoke from nearby strikes and the constant terror of bombardment. Their crucial reports may be the only window left for the world to see Gaza’s untold suffering and humanitarian nightmare unfold in real-time.

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A Call for Action

As the death toll surpasses 11,000 according to Palestinian authorities, global outrage and calls for ceasefire mount. However, Prime Minister Netanyahu insists hostilities will continue until Hamas captives are freed—keeping 300 innocent lives as bargaining chips. International medical groups and human rights monitors decry attacks endangering hospitals as war crimes. With children freezing and newborns fighting for every breath, the world watches and waits for decisive action to stop the madness.

In Summary

Caught in a perfect storm of conflict, siege and power shortages, Al-Shifa Hospital symbolizes Gaza’s dire circumstances and the doctors’ impossible fight to save lives against unrelenting assault. With infrastructure deteriorating by the hour, urgent humanitarian intervention is needed before an already grave situation spirals further into the abyss. The newborns wrapped in foil remain a searing image of the world’s collective failure to protect Palestinian civilians and uphold international law.

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