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Gaza hospital fuel 'running out'

7th January 2009

The director of the main hospital in the Gaza Strip says it is overwhelmed with the injured as it battles to keep patients alive amid power cuts and fuel shortages following Israel's bombardment of the city.

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Shifa Hospital director Hassan Khalaf said the situation was "very desperate" at the hospital, which lost electricity after intensive bombardment and is now fast running out of fuel to power back-up generators.

Shifa is likely to hold out until the end of the week, when fuel will run out, and the life-support machines keeping some 70 patients alive will have nothing left to power them.

UN health official Mahmoud Daher said the generators were meant only as an emergency backup and he feared they would break down with the constant use.

Medics in Gaza say the number of dead has reached at least 540 since Israel's campaign began nearly two weeks ago, with around 2,500 Palestinians injured, including 500 children.

Many children and young people were also among the dead, according to international media footage of the hospital.

Operating on patients in corridors and in hastily set-up operating areas, the doctors at Shifa are working 24 hours at a time, amid a severe shortage of antibiotics, anaesthetics, and monitoring equipment.

Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor volunteering at the hospital, described the situation as a "nightmare", adding that doctors lacked surgical equipment, disposables, essential drugs and food.

Palestinians said the Israeli army was being slow to grant safe passage to ambulances, making hospital transfers tortuously slow, and preventing emergency help from reaching some stricken families.

Shifa, where doctors are filling out dozens of death certificates a day, lacks surgical experts as it operates on those injured in the conflict.

In the mortuary, bodies were crowded two to a morgue drawer, with some, including those of children, left on the floor.

Screams of grief and ambulance sirens echoed down Shifa's halls, as the wounded were treated in hallways by exhausted medics.

Most of the dead and wounded arriving at Shifa are civilians, casualties of Israel's artillery shelling and fighting between its troops and Hamas militants close to densely populated areas.

Moaiya Hassanein of the Gaza Health Ministry said 550 Palestinian deaths included at least 200 civilians, 20 of them children between the ages of 2 and 15. Three Israeli civilians and two soldiers have been killed since fighting began on 27 December.

Israel says its forces have killed dozens of Palestinian gunmen, but Hamas has not listed its casualties and it is unclear where militants are being treated or where their bodies were taken, as they were not visible at Shifa.

Officials said a medical building owned by a relief organisation not connected to Hamas was destroyed in the bombardment, along with an ambulance, three mobile clinics and donated medicines. The Israeli army says it has no records of any of those strikes.

 

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