The 36 babies, weighing under 1.5 kg with some as small as 700 to 800 grams, are currently placed next to each other on regular beds, leaving them vulnerable to infections.
Israel has allowed diesel fuel to be utilised by United Nations trucks in Gaza and not hospitals, a humanitarian source told Reuters on Tuesday, despite global concerns over conditions at hospitals in the Strip, including the fate of dozens of premature babies.
The Israeli regime approved 24,000 litres (equivalent to 6,340 gallons) of diesel fuel to be used by UN in response to aid agencies in Gaza raising concerns about the chronic shortage of fuel, which has significantly impeded the delivery of essential supplies.
These necessary supplies include food, water, and medicine, to the Palestinian population suffering under a crippling siege brought on by Israel’s relentless war on Gaza.
The United States exerted pressure on the UN to accept the fuel, the source revealed.
“UNRWA set off alarm bells over the fuel situation three weeks ago, warning about its fast-depleting supplies, and the impact on lifesaving operations,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Since then, we have heavily rationed the use of fuel and accessed pre-existing, limited amounts stored in a depot inside the Gaza Strip, through close coordination with Israeli Authorities. The depot is now empty,” he added.
“It is unbelievable that humanitarian agencies have to beg for fuel and operate on life support. Since the beginning of the war, fuel has been used as a weapon of war and this should stop immediately.”
The logistics of delivering the fuel remain unclear at this point. However, citing US and Israeli sources, Axios reported that Israel is planning to permit UNRWA trucks, used by the UN Palestinian refugee agency, to refuel at Gaza’s Rafah crossing with Egypt on Wednesday.
As fuel shortages persist, Gaza health officials have been forced to suspend operations in numerous hospitals, worsening the already dire humanitarian situation.
The report comes as Israeli occupation forces (IOF) invaded the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza overnight on Wednesday, where thousands have taken shelter and are receiving life-saving treatment, including 36 premature babies.
The dangerous development occurred following weeks of Israeli threats to target Al-Shifa, Gaza’s biggest hospital, over allegations that it is being used by Hamas fighters as a hiding place and command centre.
There are about 2,500 people inside the hospital including medical teams, patients and civilians seeking shelter, according to Al Jazeera. Israeli forces have reportedly carried out room by room raids and have asked all patients to leave as they comb the facility.
There has been no indication or evidence to back Israel’s claims that Hamas is using the facility as a base, and a Human Rights Watch (HRW) said “no evidence put forward would justify depriving hospitals and ambulances of their protected status under international humanitarian law.”
Israel’s military radio also confirmed there are “no signs of Israeli hostages at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza after military entered facility”.
On Tuesday, medical personnel at Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza expressed grave concern over the fate of 36 premature babies as the lack of established methods for their relocation persists.
With Gaza’s largest hospital running out of fuel over the weekend, the generators sustaining the incubators for the original 39 premature babies failed, resulting in the tragic death of three.
The 36 babies, weighing under 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds) with some as small as 700 to 800 grams, are currently placed next to each other on regular beds. This arrangement leaves them vulnerable to infections, lacking the individual adjustments needed for humidity levels and temperatures, the hospital staff said.
Colonel Moshe Terto, heading an Israeli defence ministry body overseeing civil affairs in Gaza, assured that Israel is closely monitoring the fuel situation on a daily basis and will coordinate its entrance as needed.
Israel’s relentless bombardment has now pushed 20 of 36 hospitals in the Strip “out of service,” according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the health sector has collapsed.
The Al-Shifa hospital complex, the largest in the region, has ceased operations due to a fuel shortage. Earlier this week, Israel claimed that it had offered to provide fuel to hospitals.
“Israel’s claims that we refused to receive fuel are misleading and have no basis. The medical staff at Al-Shifa live on water and dates,” the health ministry added.
The occupying state has intensified attacks against health facilities and medics on the ground have confirmed Israeli tanks and soldiers have been shooting at civilians attempting to flee hospitals, despite carrying white flags.
On Sunday, a harrowing Al Jazeera Mubasher report citing the director of the Ministry of Health in Gaza as saying: “Dogs entered Al-Shifa Hospital and mauled the bodies of the deceased.”
“The hospital turned into a large morgue and more than 100 bodies were dumped on the ground,” the ministry added.
Winter adds new layer of suffering
Meanwhile, a heavy downpour in Gaza following six weeks of war has added a new layer of challenges for thousands who have lost their homes. The rainy season has raised fears of flooding, particularly concerning the damaged sewage system, which could lead to the spread of disease.
Margaret Harris, spokesperson for the World Health Organization (WHO), expressed grave concerns about the potential impact, citing an alarming increase in diarrhoeal diseases.
“We’re very concerned. We’ve already got outbreaks of diarrhoeal diseases. We’ve already recorded well over 30,000 cases when we would normally expect 2,000 cases in the same period,” said Harris.
The Norwegian Refugee Council warned that the start of the rainy season could mark “the most difficult week in Gaza” since the war on Gaza began, with aid agencies struggling to address daily needs and plan for potential flooding.
As rains battered the besieged enclave, video footage shared by Al Jazeera showed UN school tents in Rafah in south Gaza flooding. Belongings were stacked high to keep them dry.
One man at a UN shelter pleaded for immediate action, which comes atop existent struggle with lack of food, water, electricity, and other necessities. “If our children do not die from war, they will die from the cold of winter and hunger,” he said.