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Medical facilities in Gaza City are sheltering from sniper fire as the lives of dozens of babies are at risk with Israel and Hamas fighting near the al-Shifa hospital complex, the largest in the Palestinian enclave.
The Doctors Without Borders humanitarian group said one of its three facilities located near the hospital was under lockdown Tuesday after three patients were shot from inside the building.
“In front of the main gate, there are many bodies. There are also injured patients; we can’t bring them inside,” the organization said in a statement about the gunfire. “The situation is very bad, it is inhuman.”
Doctors Without Borders noted that along with its patients, their medical facility is sheltering 65 children displaced by the war.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the gunshots, but Gaza’s health ministry has repeatedly blamed the IDF for sniper fire reported near hospitals since the facilities became surrounded by Israeli forces over the weekend.
Israel has accused Hamas of operating inside the hospitals, pointing to al-Shifa as the site of a command post lying beneath the complex, allegations that were echoed by US intelligence.
Despite the claims, plastic surgeon Dr. Ahmed El Mokhallalati told NBC News that Hamas was not inside the hospital as staff offered to let the IDF check every person inside as proof.
Doctors working inside the hospital, however, refuted the claims as they rushed to save 36 babies requiring neonatal care at al-Shifa after the facility ran out of power and supplies.
“There is no more water, food, milk for children and babies… the situation in the hospital is catastrophic,” Dr. Muhammad Abu Salmiya, the center’s director, told CNN.
Israel said its offer to provide 300 liters of fuel to the hospital was rejected by Hamas, but El Mokhallalati said the deal didn’t go through because the fuel was left more than a mile away from the hospital.
Because of the constant gunfire and airstrikes surrounding the area, ambulance drivers said it was too dangerous to pick up the fuel in what is effectively an “active war zone,” NBC News reports.
“You know the tanks are in the front of the hospital,” El Mokhallalati told the outlet. “They are 100 meters away from the hospital… Why not put [the fuel] just here in front of the gate?”
With more than 650 patients, about 700 staffers, and thousands of refugees living in al-Shifa, the hospital is seeing its worst crisis in the war, with a mass grave now being constructed by hand.
Doctors said that after failing to dig graves on Monday amid gunfire, staff members spent hours Tuesday burying 180 bodies that could no longer be stored in the hospital.
Images from the medical complex on Monday showed that al-Shifa staff had run out of the traditional white blankets used to cover bodies and were now using colorful sheets to wrap the dead.
In the nearby Al Shati refugee camp, chaos erupted when an Israeli airstrike killed a “large number” of people just as the IDF announced it took full control of the site.
“The Nahal Brigade combined combat forces and the commando combat forces obtained operational control at Shati Camp in the last few hours,” the Israeli military said in a statement.
As the situation grows dire in al-Shifa, US State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said Tuesday that the US is currently discussing ways to allow an independent third party to conduct evacuations at the medical facilities in Gaza.
“We think an appropriate step would be to support those evacuations so babies and other vulnerable populations are not in harm’s way,” Miller said.
Miller questioned if Hamas would allow the evacuations, as the terrorist group has been accused of using hospitals as shields in the past. Officials said that talks are underway with Qatar and other intermediaries to help with the hospital conditions.
Israel has rejected calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, with its leadership stating that military pressure was the key to eradicating Hamas and securing the freedom of the nearly 240 people taken hostage during the Oct. 7 terrorist attack.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant claimed Tuesday that Hamas no longer rules northern Gaza, a day after the IDF said Palestinians began raiding the terrorists’ bases.
“I can tell you that in the northern Gaza Strip Hamas has lost control. In fact, we are in control of the entire area above and below ground in the northern Gaza Strip, and especially in Gaza City,” Gallant said during a news conference regarding the IDF’s Golani Brigade’s advancements.
“We’re in the second stage of the war in Gaza. In the first stage, we struck with full force, and in the second stage, over the last two weeks, we’ve been operating with multiple forces inside Gaza City,” he added.