Surgeon Flees Gaza City’s Last Functioning Hospital after Anesthetics Run Out

Smoke billows following an air strike on the northern part of the Gaza Strip, as seen from Sderot, southern Israel, 17 November 2023. (EPA)
Smoke billows following an air strike on the northern part of the Gaza Strip, as seen from Sderot, southern Israel, 17 November 2023. (EPA)
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Surgeon Flees Gaza City’s Last Functioning Hospital after Anesthetics Run Out

Smoke billows following an air strike on the northern part of the Gaza Strip, as seen from Sderot, southern Israel, 17 November 2023. (EPA)
Smoke billows following an air strike on the northern part of the Gaza Strip, as seen from Sderot, southern Israel, 17 November 2023. (EPA)

Hundreds of patients desperately needed his help, but now there was nothing he could do.

With Al Ahli hospital shaking from Israeli tank fire and no more anesthetics left to operate, British-Palestinian surgeon Ghassan Abu Sitta told his team it was time to leave the last fully functioning hospital in Gaza City.

"It has been a living nightmare - leaving 500 wounded knowing that there's nothing left for you to be able to do for them, it's just the most heartbreaking thing I ever had to do," Abu Sitta told Reuters on Friday, a day after leaving the hospital and walking to Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.

In a post on X, he wrote: "No longer able to provide surgeries at Ahli Hosp. The hospital is now effectively a first aid station. Hundreds of wounded now at hospital with no access to surgery. They will die from their wounds."

Israel has ordered the entire northern half of the Gaza Strip, including Gaza City, to be evacuated as it presses its campaign to wipe out the Hamas group that governs the territory. All northern hospitals have effectively ceased functioning.

Gaza's health ministry said that as of Nov. 16 only nine of the enclave's 35 hospitals were functioning even partially.

Earlier this week, it put the confirmed Palestinian death toll at over 11,500, including at least 4,700 children, but has said communications blackouts throughout the territory have made it impossible to provide regular updates.

Gaza hospitals have been overwhelmed and short of supplies since Israeli forces began their campaign to wipe out Hamas following the Palestinian militant group's Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which Israel said killed about 1,200 people.

"Al Ahli was completely inundated with wounded. And we were operating all through the night (on Wednesday)," Abu Sitta said in an internet call. "And by the early hours (of Thursday) ... we realized that we have basically run out of medication for the anesthetic machines and we had to stop the operating room."

‘Inundated with wounded’

Abu Sitta said he and his team had been particularly busy in the past week treating patients after an Israeli air strike on a nearby mosque, and after Israeli forces surrounded and then entered Gaza's biggest hospital, Al Shifa.

Abu Sitta said a message had been received at Al Ahli hospital saying it had been surrounded by Israeli tanks.

Reuters could not immediately verify the situation at and around Al Ahli. Israel's military says Hamas has tunnels and command centers beneath and adjacent to some hospitals, a charge Hamas denies.

Hamas' armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, said on Friday that no hostages taken during the Oct. 7 attack were being held at hospitals, but were taken to care centers for treatment due to the seriousness of their condition and to save their lives.

On the five-hour walk from Al Ahli to the refugee camp, Abu Sitta said he saw "scenes of destruction" and bodies lying on the street.

He said patients needing treatment remained at Al Ahli, and that another hospital in northern Gaza had been unable to take them.

"Basically, the whole of northern Gaza now has no functioning hospital," he said.

His immediate plan is to rest.

"We've been operating non-stop for the last week since Al Shifa (was surrounded). I just made the decision that I needed to sleep, until I figure out what I wanted to do next," he said.



Israel Carries Out New Raids in Gaza as Netanyahu Visits US 

This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
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Israel Carries Out New Raids in Gaza as Netanyahu Visits US 

This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)

Israeli forces carried out new raids in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, hours before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to address the US Congress.

The latest Israeli attacks destroyed homes in towns east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza and thousands of people were forced to head west to seek shelter, residents said.

The Palestinian Civil Emergency Service said it had received distress calls from residents trapped in their homes in Bani Suhaila, east of Khan Younis, but were unable to reach the town.

Israel's military, which is trying to eradicate the armed group Hamas after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, said it had been operating in areas from which fighters had been able to fire rockets into Israel and attack Israeli troops.

Gaza health officials said Israeli military strikes in the past 24 hours had killed at least 55 people, the latest casualties in a war that health authorities in the enclave say has killed more than 39,000 Palestinians.

"Where should we go? Shall we cross into the sea?" said Ghada, who has been displaced with her family six times during the war, said from Hamas City in northwestern Khan Younis.

"We are exhausted, starved, and want the war to end now, now not an hour later. Every day means more families are wiped off the registration book," she told Reuters via a chat app.

Local residents said they had been ordered to head west towards a designated humanitarian area, but that the area was now unsafe.

Israeli forces also carried out airstrikes on several areas of central and northern Gaza Strip, killing and wounding several Palestinians, health officials said.

Residents of Rafah, near the border with Egypt, said Israeli forces had blown up several houses in the west of the city.

PALESTINIANS CRITICISE U.S.

Hamas-led fighters triggered the war on Oct. 7 by storming into southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking 250 captives, according to Israeli tallies. Some 120 hostages are still being held though Israel believes one in three are dead.

Some Palestinians who gathered at a hospital in Khan Younis before funerals criticized the United States, Israel's most important international ally, for welcoming Netanyahu.

The Israel leader was due to address Congress later on Wednesday and to meet President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said he would meet Netanyahu in Florida on Friday.

"The United States is a main partner in what is happening in Gaza. We are being killed because of the United States. We are being slaughtered by American planes, American ships, American tanks, and American troops," said Kazem Abu Taha, a displaced resident from Rafah.

A senior Hamas official, Sami Abu Zuhri, told Reuters: "The Congress invitation to Netanyahu to make a speech gives legitimacy to the crimes of the war of genocide in Gaza. Receiving a war criminal is a shame to all Americans."

Israel has rejected accusations brought by South Africa at the UN's top court that its military operation in Gaza is a state-led genocide campaign against Palestinians. It has reacted angrily to a decision by the International Criminal Court's prosecutor to seek an arrest warrant against Netanyahu.

Netanyahu said this week a deal to release Israelis held captive in Gaza could be near. But Hamas officials said Netanyahu was stalling and that they had not seen any change in the Israeli stance that would allow an agreement to be reached.

Hamas wants a ceasefire agreement to end the war in Gaza. Netanyahu says the war cannot end before Hamas is eradicated.