As Israel orders Gaza hospitals to evacuate, healthcare "on its knees"

On Saturday, Israeli forces initiated a campaign for the forced evacuation of hospitals in the northern Gaza Strip, claiming that they intend to pursue Hamas militants believed to be hiding there.

Palestinians stated that hospitals, already overwhelmed with patients, are virtually non-functional or, in some cases, have suspended services.

"Hospitals need to be evacuated so that we can deal with Hamas," said Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, an official spokesperson for the Israeli army. "We intend to deal with Hamas, which has turned hospitals into fortified positions."

The increased pressure from Israeli military forces on Gaza hospitals for evacuation over the last two days has further exacerbated the overload on the besieged region's healthcare system.Geneva Conventions protect hospitals during war. But protection is not absolute MIDDLE EAST CRISIS — EXPLANATION Hospitals are protected during war. But protection is not absolute. Hamas and other Palestinian militant group "Islamic Jihad" reported clashes with Israeli forces in areas surrounding hospitals.

Palestinian officials claim that several hospitals in the city of Gaza, including the Al-Rantisi Children's Hospital, were surrounded by Israeli troops.

Israeli military stated that they surrounded Al-Rantisi and ordered everyone to leave the hospital, including staff, patients, and civilians taking refuge on the hospital grounds. The military claimed that Hamas militants were also present and attempted to prevent civilians from leaving the area. However, ultimately, according to the military, many civilians left—some on foot, and some in ambulances. Israeli military claimed to have killed a "terrorist" holding about 1,000 civilians hostage in Rantisi.

Due to the forced evacuation and ongoing Israeli airstrikes, the healthcare system in Gaza is "on its knees," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization.

The WHO Director-General stated on Friday that the organization documented five attacks on five hospitals in the Gaza Strip in the previous week. Half of Gaza's 36 hospitals and two-thirds of primary healthcare centers are no longer operational, he added.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stated that due to the intensified Israeli bombardment, several facilities were directly affected.

Al-Shifa loses power, forcing some services to stop

An internally displaced woman prepares food during a camping trip at Al-Shifa Hospital, where many civilians sought refuge, in Gaza City on Friday amid ongoing clashes between Israel and Hamas. Hader Al-Zanoun/AFP via Getty Images Additionally, the depletion of fuel supplies remains a pressing issue for the civilian population in the Gaza Strip.

According to Palestinian health representatives in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, by Saturday, electricity was cut off in Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest facility of its kind in the Gaza Strip. This led to the cessation of services that require electricity. The Ministry of Health stated that intensive care and pediatric units, as well as oxygen equipment, stopped functioning.

Al-Shifa also became the site of an explosion early on Friday.

Several videos posted online by witnesses show people injured in the courtyard of the Al-Shifa complex, which has also served as a shelter for the displaced and wounded since the start of the Israeli invasion.

Palestinians blamed Israel for the attack. However, Israel claimed that an errant Palestinian rocket was responsible for it.

Just a week ago, Israel acknowledged that more than a dozen people were killed in an airstrike near this hospital. Israel stated that it targeted Hamas members attempting to leave the hospital in an ambulance.

Israeli military officials claim they did not directly attack the hospital. However, healthcare representatives in Gaza say that in recent days, Al-Shifa Medical Complex has been struck five times.

"The destruction suffered by hospitals in Gaza has become unbearable, and it needs to be stopped. The lives of thousands of civilians, patients, and medical staff are at risk," said William Schomburg, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza.

"Children's hospitals have not escaped violence, including An-Naser Hospital, seriously affected by hostilities," added ICRC.

Director of Al-Shifa Medical Complex, Mohammed Abu Salmiya, stated on Friday that the situation in hospitals is "tragic in every sense of the word."

"This day was a day of war on hospitals," he said.