As tens of thousands flee northern Gaza amid an intensifying Israeli ground invasion, most operations have been halted at al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City due to limited fuel supplies and Israel’s bombardment nearby. “We have completely run out of all solutions,” says Nebal Farsakh, spokesperson for the Palestine Red Crescent Society, which operates the hospital, where thousands of civilians are sheltering. Israel’s evacuation order is impossible to follow without killing patients in critical care. “Evacuating them means killing them.”
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Israel and the United States are continuing to reject calls for a ceasefire in Gaza as the death toll from Israel’s bombardment tops 10,500, including over 4,000 Palestinian children. Tens of thousands of Palestinians in northern Gaza have evacuated their homes on foot as Israeli troops attempt to forcibly seize control of the area. The U.N. estimates 1.5 million Palestinians have been displaced in Gaza — that’s 70% of Gaza’s population. Many Palestinians fear Israel will never allow them to return to their homes.
On Wednesday, the top human rights official at the United Nations, Volker Türk, traveled to the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, where he accused both Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes.
VOLKER TÜRK: The Rafah crossing has been the symbolic lifeline for the last month for the 2.3 million in Gaza. The lifeline has been unjustly, outrageously thin. These are the gates to a living nightmare, a nightmare where people have been suffocating under persistent bombardment, mourning their families, struggling for water, for food, for electricity and fuel. … On the other side of this gate is Gaza, already described as the world’s biggest open-air prison before 7 October, under a 56-year occupation and a 16-year blockade by Israel.
The atrocities perpetrated by Palestinian armed groups on the 7th of October were heinous. They were war crimes, as is the continued holding of hostages. The collective punishment by Israel of Palestinian civilians is also a war crime, as is unlawful forcible evacuation of civilians.
AMY GOODMAN: In Gaza City, Israeli airstrikes have hit areas near Al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest hospital. Meanwhile, most operations at al-Quds Hospital have been halted due to dwindling fuel supplies and daily Israeli attacks on areas around the hospital. Most roads to the hospital have been destroyed. The hospital is run by Palestine Red Crescent Society, which is part of the International Red Cross.
We go now to Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, where we’re joined by Nebal Farsakh, a spokesperson for the Palestine Red Crescent Society.
Thanks so much for being with us. If you could start off by talking about the state of the hospitals in Gaza right now? And what hospitals are you being told that you must have evacuated? And what is the response of the Palestinian Red Crescent, Nebal?
NEBAL FARSAKH: Good morning. Thanks for having me.
The situation now in hospitals is dire. Almost 18 hospitals out of 35 in Gaza Strip have been — have gone out of service, either due to bombardment or because extreme shortage of — they are running out of fuel and medical supplies. The rest of the hospitals are operating under extreme difficult situations. They are having extreme shortages of medical supplies and medicine, as well as almost running out of fuel.
For example, al-Quds Hospital, yesterday we had to reduce all services and operations in al-Quds Hospital to the extent that the major and main generator in the hospital has been turned off, and now we are only using the small generator. The hospital’s surgical ward has been shut down, as well. The hospital’s oxygen generator also has been shut down, and now we are using oxygen cylinders. According to the information, we are only now for 24 hours, and we will be completely shutting down, because we will be running out of fuel. Basically, up to this moment, none of the aid has been allowed to get into al-Quds Hospital.
This is the fourth day, and al-Quds Hospital has been under intense bombardments, along of all roads that lead to al-Quds Hospital are closed. Because of the bombardment, the roads are closed. Our emergency medical services team, they are also inside the hospital, so they are unable to go out of the hospital to arrive the wounded people in the area. They can see from where they are inside the hospital that there are many wounded people very close to the hospital, but, unfortunately, they feel helpless. Because of the intense bombardment, it’s so much dangerous. So they even can’t go out to arrive those wounded people and save their lives. And the area where the hospital is located now became so much dangerous. As highlighted, all roads are closed, so nobody can get into al-Quds Hospital.
Unfortunately, none of the aid has been allowed to get into al-Quds Hospital. Two days ago, we were waiting for aid to come in through ICRC. However, the ICRC convoy was targeted by Israeli occupation forces. And unfortunately, they were unable to deliver the aid to al-Quds Hospital.
So, now the situation, not only the problem is the fuel; we are barely having food or water for our staff and our patients and for over 14,000 civilians who are currently sheltering inside the hospital. Because of the continuous bombardments, all the windows have been falled down — I mean, the glass. So they are literally open. And at nighttime, it became so much cold, even for families who are lying and sleeping on the ground. You can’t imagine the picture of children who are feeling so much cold and don’t even have a blanket to warm them up. So now we are in urgent need for everything, for blankets, for food and water. Those children, they even have a very minimum amount of food. As I mentioned, we barely have even food for the staff or for the patients. This is the third day all Gaza City and the north is out of bread, because all bakeries have already run out of fuel. So none of Gazans who are now currently in Gaza and the north are able to get any piece of bread.
There’s still in Gaza and the north almost 500,000 civilians who are still now sheltering in schools and hospitals in those area where Israel forced its people to evacuate. It’s not easy to say just “evacuate,” because intense bombardments are just taking place all over, and it’s not safe to evacuate yourself, taking into consideration that, as you highlighted, many people have to do that on foot under intense bombardment. There is no transportation. There is complete destruction of the road and infrastructure. And simply an ICRC convoy was targeted while it was on its way from the south to the north. So, how it would be safe for civilians to evacuate themselves to the south?
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Nebal, so if you could respond to the fact that Israel has said, either evacuate from al-Quds Hospital, or the Palestinian Red Crescent is responsible for any deaths? And then, also, you know, you’ve said that oxygen generators have now been shut off, you’re relying on oxygen cylinders, that fuel is running out. I mean, what do you — how will this go, if you don’t have access to fuel? What do you fear will happen to these patients who are dependent on oxygen, not to mention all of the other medical supplies that are dwindling, if not have entirely run out?
NEBAL FARSAKH: Yes. We have announced repeatedly that we have around 500 patients inside the hospital. Many of them are connected to life support machines. They are in the intensive care unit. We have babies in incubators. We don’t have the means to evacuate them safely. Evacuating them means killing them. Taking into consideration that already intense bombardments are taking place, so there will be no even any way to evacuate the staff, along with 14,000 civilians who are currently taking shelter because, simply, they have nowhere, no way to go to.
Hospitals, healthcare personnel, healthcare facilities should be protected under international humanitarian law. There will be no justification for Israel targeting al-Quds Hospital, although — even the WHO has announced that evacuation orders against hospitals are impossible to implement. They constitute a death penalty for patients. Doctors, nurses, healthcare workers should not put in an option to choose either to lose your life or risk your life or even turn back — turn your back to your patients and just go away. This is not acceptable.
And this situation, to be under intense bombardment, under constant fear and panic of losing your life, it’s also unacceptable. As I said, for over at least a week, now two weeks almost, intense bombardments are taking place in a very close area of the hospital, to the extent that most of the buildings in the surrounding area of the hospital has been damaged. Airstrikes are taking place even 15 meters away from the hospital. It has resulted to at least 16 people were injured during these bombardments, to the extent that a patient in the intensive care unit was also injured. This should not be acceptable.
I can’t describe the situation now inside the hospital, when I’m talking about 14,000 civilians — most of them are children and women — just sleeping on the hospital’s ground. Every single corner in the hospital, there is internally displaced people, who have no other option. This is the last choice for them. It’s just seeking shelter to a place they thought they will be in a safe place. Unfortunately, this is not the case, because Israel, it looks like it’s absolutely over and above the international humanitarian law.
Unfortunately, as a humanitarian organization, we have completely run out of all of solutions. Over three weeks now we have been calling on the international community to intervene immediately to allow the entry of humanitarian aid to Gaza, and including fuel. We have warned repeatedly, “We are running out of fuel.” We have already run out of fuel a week ago. So, we managed to get some fuel from some gas stations who had some left over. Unfortunately, because of the continuous blockade on Gaza, particularly, and the north, it’s now an impossible mission to find one liter of gas, one liter of fuel in Gaza and the north. We have come to an end. We have already reduced all of our operations, all of our services, in order just to manage to take care of those patients who are now inside the hospital. And although we have taken all of these measures, we are only for 24 hours. At that point, the hospital’s small generator will shut down, and then the lives of those who are connected to life support machines, they will lose their life. And we even — we even can’t imagine the situation we will be in. As a humanitarian organization, we feel helpless. We feel helpless.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Nebal, your response to Israel saying, if you don’t evacuate al-Quds Hospital, your organization, the Palestinian Red Crescent, is responsible for any deaths?
NEBAL FARSAKH: As I said, international humanitarian law is clear: Hospitals, healthcare worker, healthcare facilities, civilians should not be a target. If an attack or whatsoever happened for al-Quds Hospital, this will be a responsibility of Israel, the responsibility of the international community, who are, up to this moment, fail to stand up for humanity, fail to pressure Israel to ensure the protection of civilians, healthcare personnel and healthcare facilities. Up to this moment, four colleagues were killed during conducting their humanitarian role, trying to save other people’s life. Twenty-two other paramedics were injured. At least eight ambulances completely went out of service due to Israeli bombardment and targeted for ambulances. This also should be stopped. Under all circumstances, in all conflicts, healthcare workers, healthcare personnel, healthcare facilities and hospitals, along with civilians, they should be protected. Unfortunately, 70% of the victims, of thousands of people who were killed in Gaza, are children, women and elderly people. This war crime should be stopped.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Nebal, I mean, if you could talk specifically about the situation of children, over 4,000 killed, countless others thought to be under the rubble? But apart from that, there’s a new acronym that’s been in use in Gaza hospitals: WCNSF, wounded child, no surviving family. If you could say something about that, Nebal, whether you’re witnessing that, how much you’re witnessing it in hospitals there, al-Quds included?
NEBAL FARSAKH: Unfortunately, because of the intensive bombardments that is taking place on people’s residential buildings, houses, without even any prior warning, that has resulted to wiping out whole families. And unfortunately, many children who are survivors now, they don’t even have any family member.
We have saved a 12-years-old girl. She was under the rubble for almost 30 hours. Unfortunately, she has lost all of her family. And now she is currently sheltering inside the hospital. Our psychosocial support team try as much as they can to support her, but no words can describe the traumatized situation that this 13-years-old girl, along with other children in Gaza, are living because of this intense bombardment.
Even those who didn’t lose anyone, simply being under intense bombardments day and night, and hearing strong bombardments with complete darkness because of the cut of electricity, is just so much horrifying and panic among those children who are living unprecedented situations that no child in this world, we wish, is be living.
AMY GOODMAN: Nebal Farsakh, we want to thank you for spending this time with us, spokesperson for the Palestine Red Crescent Society, joining us from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.
Coming up, we’ll speak to the Palestinian American poet and physician Fady Joudah. Israel has killed dozens of his family members in Gaza in just the past month. Stay with us.