Israel faced mounting pressure from western allies to end the killing of civilians in Gaza as its bombardment and land offensive forced most hospitals to close and pushed the strip’s health system to the brink of collapse.
French president Emmanuel Macron on Friday urged Israel to stop killing babies and women, as he became the first leader of a big western country to call for a ceasefire after more than a month of heavy fighting.
“De facto — today, civilians are bombed — de facto,” he said in an interview with the BBC. “These babies, these ladies, these old people are bombed and killed. So there is no reason for that and no legitimacy. So we do urge Israel to stop.”
Macron’s comments followed a warning from Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, that “far too many Palestinians” had been killed in the fighting, as the Jewish state stepped up its operations in and around hospitals in Gaza, with the UN saying that “several” had suffered direct hits on Friday.
But Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that world leaders should be condemning Hamas, not Israel, for the harm to civilians.
“It must be remembered that Israel entered the war due to that terrorist organisation’s brutal murder of hundreds of Israelis and holding hostage more than 200 Israelis,” he said.
Arab and Muslim leaders were meeting at an emergency summit in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, where they are expected to reiterate their calls for an immediate ceasefire to the five-week war.
Gaza medical authorities announced on Saturday that the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, the biggest hospital in the enclave, had been forced to suspend operations because it had run out of fuel for its generators.
Speaking from the hospital on Saturday to Al Jazeera TV against the sound of bombardment, Ashraf al-Qudra, the Gaza health spokesman, said that “the last generator in the hospital had stopped completely”.
He added that movement around the large hospital complex, which he described as surrounded by Israeli tanks, was no longer possible because of Israeli strikes.
The UN’s humanitarian arm OCHA said that 20 of the 36 hospitals in Gaza have been forced to cease operating as a result of the conflict. It added that by noon on Friday, Israeli ground forces had encircled four hospitals in the al-Nasr area of Gaza City.
Israel launched its assault on Gaza after Hamas militants carried out the deadliest ever attack on Israel last month, killing more than 1,200 people, most of them civilians, according to Israeli officials.
Israel’s bombardment of the impoverished enclave has killed more than 11,100 people, including more than 4,500 children and over 3,000 women, according to Palestinian health officials.
It has also restricted supplies of fuel, electricity, food and water to Gaza, which is home to 2.3mn people, causing a humanitarian catastrophe in the territory.
Israel says it is operating against hospitals because Hamas is using them as bases. Hamas, which has controlled the strip since 2007, has denied this.
Robert Mardini, the director-general of the Red Cross, said the organisation was “shocked and appalled” by the images and reports coming from Shifa.
Mai al-Kaila, the Palestinian Authority health minister in Gaza, said 39 babies were at risk of death at the Shifa Hospital because of lack of electricity, oxygen and medicines.
Mohamed Abu Silmeyeh, director of the hospital, told Al Jazeera TV that injured people were still being brought in “but we cannot operate on them because all surgery theatres are completely closed and without power”.
He said there were between 500-600 patients trapped in the hospital as well as 800 staff and about 15,000 displaced people. He added that one infant had already died because of a lack of power to his incubator.
“Medical teams are using primitive methods to keep [infants] warm, like wrapping them up in cellophane and giving them artificial breathing, but this will not continue for long and I expect more people to die in the incubator and ICU units,” he said.
Meanwhile, the leader of Iran-backed militant group Hizbollah has vowed that the Lebanese paramilitary group and other Iran-backed factions would continue to attack Israel for as long as the war in Gaza rages.
Hassan Nasrallah said on Saturday that it had “upgraded” its attacks by using new weapons and had diversified its targets inside Israel.
“This front will remain active,” Nasrallah said in his second televised address since Israel declared war on Hamas. He added that “time” and “patience” were on Hizbollah’s side.
At least 70 Hizbollah fighters have been killed in skirmishes with Israeli forces. But the exchanges have been broadly contained in the borderlands, an indication that both sides are reluctant to be drawn into a broader conflict.
Last week, Nasrallah said Hizbollah would consider “all possibilities” in its fight against Israel, but stopped short of declaring an all-out war.
Nasrallah maintained that stance on Saturday, but left open the possibility of a full-scale confrontation that could include allied forces in Yemen, Syria and Iraq.
“In recent days, we have witnessed a series of threats” from leading Israeli politicians, Nasrallah said. “Everyday we conduct our assessments. Ours will remain a front of pressure.”
He also praised attacks on Israel and on US troops stationed in the region by the constellation of Iran-backed Shia militias known as the Axis of Resistance in Iraq and Syria, as well as the Houthis in Yemen.
“To the Americans I say: if you want these operations to stop, if you don’t want this to be a regional war, then you have to stop the war on Gaza,” Nasrallah said.
Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant warned Hizbollah against “dragging Lebanon to a possible war”. He added: “If [Hizbollah] will make such mistakes here, the first to pay the price will be the citizens. What we can do in Gaza, we can also do in Beirut.”
Additional reporting by Samer Al-Atrush