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Fighting, Fuel Shortages Knock Out Gaza’s Second-Largest Hospital

CAIRO/JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Fighting, fuel shortages and Israeli raids put the Gaza Strip’s second-largest hospital completely out of service on Sunday, local and U.N. health officials said, as Israel battled Hamas militants in the devastated Palestinian enclave.

The Nasser Hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis still sheltered scores of patients suffering from war wounds and Gaza’s worsening health crisis, but there was no power and not enough staff to treat them all, health officials said.

“It’s gone completely out of service,” Gaza health ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra told Reuters.

War in Israel and Gaza

A Palestinian girl collects salvageable items in a building damaged during Israeli bombardment in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. Israel announced on February 12 the rescue of two hostages in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where the Hamas-run health ministry said "around 100" Palestinians including children were killed in heavy overnight air strikes. (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP) (Photo by SAID KHATIB/AFP via Getty Images)

“There are only four medical staffers currently caring for patients inside the facility,” he said.

Gaza’s hospitals have been a focal point of the four-month-old war between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls the besieged territory.

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Most have been put out of action by fighting and lack of fuel, leaving a population of 2.3 million without proper healthcare while tens of thousands have been wounded by airstrikes and many others suffer from chronic illness and, increasingly, starvation.

Israel has raided medical facilities alleging that Hamas keeps weapons and hostages in hospitals. Hamas denies this. The international community says hospitals, which are protected under international law, must be protected.

The World Health Organization (WHO) urged Israel to grant its staff access to the hospital, where it said a week-long siege and raids by Israeli forces searching for Hamas militants had stopped them from helping patients.

“Both yesterday and the day before, the @WHO team was not permitted to enter the hospital to assess the conditions of the patients and critical medical needs, despite reaching the hospital compound to deliver fuel,” WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on social media platform X.

The Israeli military said its special forces were operating in and around Nasser Hospital, and had killed dozens of Palestinian militants and seized a large amount of weapons in fighting across Gaza over the past day.

“Dozens of terrorists were eliminated and large quantities of weapons were seized,” it said in a statement.

The military said this week it was hunting for militants in Nasser and had arrested at least 100 suspects on the premises, killed gunmen near the hospital and found weapons inside it.

Hamas has denied allegations that its fighters use medical facilities for cover.

Israel’s air and ground offensive has devastated much of Gaza and forced nearly all of its inhabitants from their homes. Palestinian health authorities say 28,985 people, mostly civilians, have been killed.

The war began when Hamas sent fighters into Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seizing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Cairo, Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem; Writing by John Davison; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Christina Fincher)

Copyright 2024 Thomson Reuters.

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