Gaza’s main hospital was collapsing on Saturday as the Israeli forces surrounding it began closing in, and an almost complete loss of power and oxygen resulted in the deaths of a premature baby in an incubator and of a number of other patients, according to the hospital director and the Gaza health ministry.
Without fuel to run generators, the hospital, Al-Shifa, in Gaza City, has been plunged into darkness and its medical equipment has stopped working. For weeks — amid a cutoff of fuel and electricity by Israel — it has been relying on backup generators and a dwindling supply of fuel, which has now all but run out.
At Al-Shifa and several other Gaza City hospitals, thousands of seriously ill and wounded patients and displaced people have been trapped inside while Israeli tanks and snipers surround the compounds and occasionally fire off shots, according to the health ministry, doctors and some witnesses sheltering inside. Nearby, there is intense, close-quarter combat between Israeli troops and fighters from Hamas, the armed Palestinian group that controls Gaza.
An Israeli military spokesman said of the hospitals, “We’re slowly closing in on them” and urged people to leave.
But some of those who tried to flee on Saturday, including a family, were shot at by Israeli snipers, killing at least one person, according to multiple people at Al-Shifa Hospital, including the director, Dr. Mohammed Abu Salmiya.
On Saturday, the Israeli military denied that there was any siege or shooting at Al-Shifa, and said that the military could coordinate with anyone who wanted to leave. Earlier, the military said it was “in the midst of ongoing intense fighting against Hamas” in the vicinity of Al-Shifa.
The Israeli military has accused Hamas of operating an underground command center below Al-Shifa, using the hospital as a shield. Both the hospital’s administration and Hamas have denied the allegations.
The escalation of strikes on and fighting near some of Gaza City’s hospitals has exacerbated an already catastrophic medical crisis in the territory. Al-Shifa has dozens of other premature babies in incubators that are no longer functioning, said Dr. Nasser Bulbul, head of the hospital’s premature and neonatal department.
“We have to transport the babies in blankets and sheets to another building,” he said, where there was a bit of electricity to power incubators. He added that it was dangerous even to move from one building to another inside the medical complex.
On Saturday, the Palestine Red Crescent warned that Al-Quds Hospital, another major hospital in Gaza City, was at risk of closing down in the coming hours because it was running out of fuel to power generators. There are currently 500 patients at the hospital, the Red Crescent said.
Israeli tanks and military vehicles have surrounded Al-Quds hospital and are shelling the building, the Red Crescent said.
The director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on Friday that the United Nations had verified more than 250 attacks on health care facilities in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, including hospitals, clinics, ambulances and patients.
“The situation on the ground is impossible to describe,” Dr. Tedros said. “Hospital corridors crammed with the injured, the sick, the dying. Morgues overflowing. Surgery without anesthesia. Tens of thousands of displaced people sheltering at hospitals.”
In the I.C.U. at Al-Shifa, after ventilators shut down, medical staff performed manual artificial respiration on some patients for many hours, said Medhat Abbas, the director general of Gaza’s health ministry.
Dr. Abu Salmiya, the hospital director, said, “Surgeries have had to stop. Kidney dialysis has stopped and the neonatal unit is in a very dire situation.”
“If any wounded now come to us, we will not be able to operate on them,” he added.
The power outage is the result of an Israeli siege of Gaza for the past month that has cut off water, food, electricity and fuel. Israel imposed the siege days after a brutal attack by Hamas that killed about 1,200 people, according to the Israeli authorities.
The lack of power has forced surgeons to operate by flashlight and doctors and nurses to run ventilators by hand to keep patients alive. Food, water and medicine are also in extremely short supply and medical workers have reported that they have had to perform some surgeries, including amputations and brain operations, without anesthesia.
Mahmoud Abu Harbed, a resident of Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, has been at Al-Shifa Hospital for more than a month. He said on Saturday that his home was hit by Israeli airstrikes early in the war, wounding his brother, and they fled to the hospital for his brother to be treated and for shelter.
“Everyone is on top of one another, displaced people, wounded people, even the medical staff,” he said. “They try to save this person and that person, but they can’t. There’s no electricity or medicine or anything,” he added.
“People are afraid, but we pray that God will protect us.”
Rawan Sheikh Ahmad and Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting.