DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — As Israeli troops stormed the Shifa hospital complex, doctors spoke of horrifying conditions inside. Electricity has been out for nearly a week, leaving incubators for infants and ventilators for ICU patients defunct. Nearly 7,000 people are trapped there with little food, including patients, staff and civilian families.
Dehydration and malnutrition are growing, with nearly all residents in need of food, said Abeer Etefa, a Mideast regional spokeswoman for the U.N.’s World Food Program.
“People are facing the immediate possibility of starvation,” she said Thursday from Cairo.
Israeli officials previously vowed fuel would not be let in until Gaza militants release the hostages. The government has been under heavy public pressure to show it is doing all it can to bring back people abducted in Hamas’ attack.
Hospital Director Mohammed Abu Selmia told Al Jazeera television that 52 patients have died since fuel ran out — up from 40 reported before Israeli troops stormed in on Wednesday. He said staff were amputating limbs of some patients to avoid infection spreading because of shortages in medicines.
More were on the verge of death as their wounds are “open with maggots coming out of them,” another doctor, Faisal Siyam, told Al Jazeera.
Dr. Ahmad Mukhalalti said most of the 36 premature infants suffer from severe diarrhea because there is no clean water. He said Israeli troops had taken away all the bodies from the morgue and from a mass grave that staff dug days earlier in the courtyard. The Israeli military had no comment on the report.
Abu Selmia said Israeli troops should either bring them fuel to power equipment or allow an evacuation.
“The hospital has become a giant prison,” he said. “We are surrounded by death.”
Israel has barred entry of fuel since the start of the war, saying it would be diverted by Hamas for military means. It has also blocked food, water and other supplies except for a trickle of aid from Egypt that aid workers say falls far short of what’s needed.
Israel announced that it will allow two tanker trucks of fuel into Gaza each day for the U.N. and communication systems. That amount is half of what the U.N. said it needs for lifesaving functions for hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza, including powering water systems, hospitals, bakeries and the trucks delivering aid.
The communications blackout largely cut off Gaza’s 2.3 million people from one another and the outside world.
Israeli forces said they will continue to bomb toward Gaza’s south while continuing operations in the north. Troops have been searching the territory’s biggest hospital, Shifa, for traces of a Hamas command center Israel alleges was located under the building — a claim Hamas and the hospital staff deny.
More than 11,400 Palestinians have been killed in the war, two-thirds of them women and minors, according to Palestinian health authorities. Another 2,700 have been reported missing, believed buried under rubble.
Israel faces pressure to prove its claim that Hamas set up its main command center in and under the hospital. So far, Israel has shown photos and video of weapons caches that it says were found inside as well as what it said was a tunnel entrance. The AP could not independently verify the Israeli claims.
Airstrike bombed the southern sector of Gaza, where most of the territory’s population is now sheltering. Among them are hundreds of thousands of people who heeded Israel’s calls to evacuate Gaza City and the north to get out of the way of its ground offensive.
In the Nusseirat refugee camp, a strike crushed a building to rubble killing at least 41 people, staff at the nearby hospital said. Residents said dozens more were buried in the wreckage.
So far, Israel has bombed has focused on northern Gaza as it vows to remove Hamas from power and crush its military capabilities. If the assault moves into the south, it is not clear where Palestinians can go. Egypt has refused to allow a mass transfer onto its soil.
Keath and Jeffrey reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Najib Jobain in Rafah, Gaza Strip; Bassem Mroue in Beirut; Edith M. Lederer in New York; and Julia Frankel in Jerusalem contributed to this story.
Full AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.