As Israel called for Gazans to leave the north of the besieged enclave, hospitals in Gaza City said they had no way to evacuate thousands of sick and injured patients and that there were not enough hospitals to treat them in the south.
With a widely anticipated ground invasion looming, the city’s hospitals continued to receive hundreds of victims wounded by Israeli airstrikes that have pummeled the Palestinian territory for the past week.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have fled south, but nowhere is safe across the Gaza Strip and a fast-growing humanitarian crisis has erupted as a result of Israel blocking food, water and fuel from entering the territory.
Nearly half of Gaza’s population of more than two million has been displaced over the past week, according to UNRWA, the U.N. agency that aids Palestinians.
At Al Shifa Hospital, the Gaza Strip’s largest medical complex, the wounded were still streaming in Sunday. Moving them elsewhere was logistically impossible, its director said.
“It’s absolutely impossible to evacuate the hospital,” said its director, Dr. Muhammad Abu Salima. “There is nowhere in Gaza that can accept the number of patients in our intensive care unit or neonatal intensive care unit or even the operating rooms.”
At the hospital, 70 patients are on ventilators, 200 are receiving dialysis treatment and many babies are in incubators, he said.
“If someone doesn’t die from the bombardment, then he’ll die from the lack of medical service,” he said.
Transporting critically wounded patients, too, was a challenge. There are also not enough ambulances. Since last Saturday when Israel began its aerial assault on Gaza, at least 15 ambulances have been bombed and destroyed in airstrikes, the Gazan health ministry said.
Israel launched its airstrikes on Gaza after Hamas, the group that controls Gaza, staged a surprise attack on southern Israel that killed more than 1,300 people.
On Saturday, the World Health Organization condemned Israel’s calls for 22 hospitals in northern Gaza to be evacuated and called it a “death sentence” for the sick and wounded.
The organization said there were about 2,000 desperately ill patients inside the hospital wards under evacuation orders, including those in intensive care or on life support, including newborn babies in incubators. As a result of the Israeli assault, Gaza’s hospitals are operating beyond maximum capacity, with some patients treated in corridors and outdoors in surrounding streets, the World Health Organization said.
Iyad Abuheweila contributed reporting.