Gaza Health Ministry Says It Refused Fuel Offered By Israel For Al-Shifa Hospital, WHO Calls For Immediate Ceasefire

The Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City is the largest healthcare facility in the Gaza Strip. In recent days, Israeli and Hamas personnel have been fighting in the areas surrounding the hospital.

An injured Palestinian woman is wheeled into the al-Shifa hospital, following Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City.

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry has told the media it refused fuel offered by the Israeli government for Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

The Al-Shifa Hospital is the largest healthcare facility in the Gaza Strip that was encircled by the Israeli military last week. Hamas personnel and Israeli forces are fighting in nearby areas surrounding the hospital. Strikes in the hospital premises have also been reported over the past one week.

In a related development, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said that the Al-Shifa Hospital is no longer operational and has reiterated the call for an immediate ceasefire. 

Hamas's Health Ministry Spokesperson Dr. Ashraf al-Qudra told The New York Times that the head of the Al-Shifa Hospital refused the fuel offered by the Israeli government. He also disputed the quantity of the fuel that was offered. 

We refused fuel as it was insufficient: Hamas spokesperson

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said that the fuel offered by Israel was refused because it was insufficient, according to The New York Times. 

Israel made an offer over the phone for 200 liters —not 300— of fuel and that the head of Al-Shifa Hospital rejected the offer because it was not sufficient, said Hamas's Health Ministry Spokesperson Dr. Ashraf al-Qudra to The Times. 

Al-Qudra further told The Times that no delivery was made as the offer was refused. He further told the paper that "taking this fuel would give Israel credit for allowing fuel into Gaza" even though Israel has otherwise barred fuel from entering Gaza. 

The Israeli military as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have said that around 300 litres of fuel was offered to the Al-Shifa Hospital, but the Gazan authorities refused it. Israeli military spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said that the fuel was deposited at around 1,000 feet from the hospital from where it was to be collected by the staffers. 

Sharing the footage of Israeli personnel depositing the fuel near the Al-Shifa Hospital, the Israeli military on Sunday said, "Our troops risked their lives to hand-deliver 300 liters of fuel to the Shifa hospital for urgent medical purposes. Hamas forbade the hospital from taking it."

Around two weeks after launching the ground operation in Gaza, a watered-down version of the full-fledged invasion initially anticipated, the Israeli military last week encircled what it called the "military quarter" of Gaza City around the Al-Shifa Hospital. Two other hospitals, Al Nasr and Rantisi, have also been surrounded. The Gazan authorities have said that at least seven people have died in strikes within the Al-Shifa Hospital premises

The Israeli military has claimed that Hamas is using the tunnels and levels under the Al-Shifa Hospital as its command and control centre. While the claim has gained traction lately, it has been maintained by the Israeli government since at least 2009, within two years of Hamas taking over Gaza after driving out the internationally-recognised Fatah that partially runs the West Bank through the Palestinian Authority (PA). "During a cabinet meeting a week ago, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin said senior Hamas officials found refuge in the hospital basement because they know Israel would not target it, due to the patients in the upper floors. Palestinian sources told Haaretz that not all the senior Hamas leaders are hiding in one place," said a report in the Haaretz paper in 2009.

WHO calls for immediate ceasefire as Gaza crisis worsens

Amid worsening healthcare and humanitarian crises in the Gaza Strip, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday called for an immediate ceasefire. 

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus that the situation at the Al-Shifa Hospital is "dire and perilous". He added the hospital is not functional anymore.

"It's been three days without electricity, without water and with very poor internet which has severely impacted our ability to provide essential care. The constant gunfire and bombings in the area have exacerbated the already critical circumstances. Tragically, the number of patient fatalities has increased significantly. Regrettably, the hospital is not functioning as a hospital anymore. The world cannot stand silent while hospitals, which should be safe havens, are transformed into scenes of death, devastation, and despair," said Ghebreyesus on Twitter.

The hospital authorities have said that at least five deaths have taken place, including the deaths of three children, due to power outages from lack of fuel, according to The New York Times. They have also said that there is also fear of Israeli snipers targeting the patients and personnel. 

"The head of Al-Shifa’s intensive care unit, Dr. Jihad al-Jaidi, said by phone on Sunday that those inside the hospital had been trying to keep clear of the windows for fear of snipers and that his team had moved its 27 patients into the narrow hallways, hoping they’d be safer," reported The Times. 

The humanitarian situation of Gaza remains grave amid the Israel-Hamas War. Following the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 in which Israel says over 1,200 were killed and around 6,900 were injured, Israel launched a bombing campaign against Hamas. After over two weeks of bombardment, it also launched a ground operation last month. While Hamas has taken a hit, widespread civilian casualties have also been reported. Gazan authorities say more than 11,100, with at least 4,500 of them children, have been killed. Additionally, 1.5 million Palestinians have been displaced by the fighting and more than a third of all houses in Gaza are said to have been destroyed in the ongoing fighting. Amid a land blockade by Israel and an overall long-running blockade by Israel and Egypt, the region is also short of food, medicines, and other essentials as aid remains way short of the levels envisioned by the United Nations (UN) agencies