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Gaza fighting spreads into hospitals where there’s ‘no way in and out’

A 3-year-old boy recovers after having his leg amputated following a direct missile strike on his home in Nuseirat city in the central Gaza Strip. (file)
© UNICEF/Abed Zaqout
A 3-year-old boy recovers after having his leg amputated following a direct missile strike on his home in Nuseirat city in the central Gaza Strip. (file)

Gaza fighting spreads into hospitals where there’s ‘no way in and out’

Humanitarian Aid

Amid continuing heavy fighting in Gaza on Tuesday morning, including reported attacks on hospitals in the southern city of Khan Younis, UN humanitarians expressed deep concern for patients and others seeking treatment who had “no way in and out”.

In Geneva, Christian Lindmeier, spokesperson for the UN World Health Organization (WHO), confirmed that Al-Kheir Hospital was “one of the two hospitals that is now being raided”, while Nasser Hospital was “now basically besieged around the hospital and has no way in and out”. 

“I know it must be a horrible scenario on the ground there, with people not knowing what the next minutes will bring.”

Desperate health needs

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The WHO spokesperson added that only 14 hospitals are still functioning in Gaza – seven in the north and seven in the south – where health needs are overwhelming after more than three months of heavy bombardment by Israeli Defense Forces triggered by Hamas-led terror attacks in Israel that left some 1,200 dead and approximately 250 taken hostage. 

The development follows an alert on X, formerly Twitter, from WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday evening about reports of “continuous fighting” near hospitals in Khan Younis, where violence prevented “newly injured people outside the hospitals from being reached and receiving care”. 

The situation is “absolutely unacceptable and not what any health facility anywhere in the world should go through”, Mr. Lindmeier insisted, noting that some 20 hospitals no longer function across Gaza.

Aid convoys held up

Underscoring the dire humanitarian situation in the enclave, the WHO spokesperson described how desperate and hungry Gazans have become in their search for food. “One of the convoys had mainly fuel for hospitals on it, but the people were holding it up, as multiple times it was trying to move forward and trying to leave and trying to get onto the road because they were so desperate looking for food.”

Echoing that warning, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned that more than half a million people in Gaza continue to face “catastrophic food insecurity levels”.

The risk of famine increases each day, as conflict continues to limit the delivery of lifesaving food assistance, said Abeer Etefa, WFP’s Middle East And North Africa senior communications officer and spokesperson.

“It is the largest concentration of people in what looks like famine-like conditions anywhere in the world. And also how fast we got to this point is extremely concerning.”

The WFP spokesperson also noted that children who had been evacuated for treatment on the Egyptian side of the border appeared malnourished, underweight and “extremely thin”.

She worried about what would happen without more humanitarian pauses, a ceasefire and more access to people.

"These people are starving already, and they will be in a very difficult situation," she said.

Senior humanitarians visit Rafah 

Two top UN aid officials have visited Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, said UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric, speaking later on Tuesday in New York.

Sigrid Kaag, Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza, and Jamie McGoldrick, the interim Humanitarian Coordinator, met with civilians in the southern city, the entry point for desperately needed food, fuel and other items.

They also saw the UN’s own humanitarian operations and met with representatives of various UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating on the ground as well as Palestinian relief workers. 

Delivering food assistance

Mr. Dujarric told reporters that the UN and partners continue to address the acute famine risk across Gaza, despite the major obstacles they face.

“Between 15 and 21 January, about 1.2 million people were reached with at least one form of food assistance," he said.

More than half of the distributions were made in Rafah and 21 per cent in Khan Younis. Over a quarter reached Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, and 14 per cent went to the northern governorates.

Civilians have been severely impacted by escalating hostilities in the Khan Younis area on Monday, according to the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA. Dozens of people were killed, while several homes and other buildings were destroyed.

“The Palestine Red Crescent Society reported to us that Israeli forces had surrounded their ambulance headquarters in Khan Younis, restricting ambulances from providing support in the area. Israeli forces reportedly struck the vicinity of Al-Amal hospital and the ambulance headquarters,” Mr. Dujarric said.

Attacks on healthcare continue to rise, according to WHO. More than 300 have been verified since the start of the hostilities in Gaza, while more than 330 were reported in the West Bank over the same period.