Gaza death toll reaches 28,985; Strip's second-largest hospital completely out of service

Israeli soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. Photo: Reuters.

Cairo: Fighting, fuel shortages and Israeli raids put the Gaza Strip's second-largest hospital completely out of service on Sunday, local and UN health officials said, as Israel battled Hamas militants in the devastated Palestinian enclave.

The Nasser Hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis still sheltered scores of patients suffering from war wounds and Gaza's worsening health crisis, but there was no power and not enough staff to treat them all, health officials said. "There are only four medical teams - 25 staff - currently caring for patients inside the facility," Gaza health ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra told Reuters.

Qidra said water supply to the hospital had halted because generators had been out of action for three days, sewage was flooding emergency rooms and the remaining staff had no way of treating intensive care patients. Lack of oxygen supplies - also a result of having no power - had caused the deaths of at least seven patients, he said.

Gaza's hospitals have been a focal point of the four-month-old war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls the besieged territory. Most have been put out of action by fighting and lack of fuel, leaving a population of 2.3 million without proper healthcare.

Israel has raided medical facilities alleging that Hamas keeps weapons and hostages in hospitals. Hamas operates across densely-populated Gaza but denies it uses hospitals for cover.

Israel's air and ground offensive has devastated much of Gaza and forced nearly all of its inhabitants from their homes. Palestinian health authorities say 28,985 people, mostly civilians, have been killed.

The war began when Hamas sent fighters into Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seizing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel's assault on Gaza began in the north and has moved south as Palestinians have fled, many crammed into tents around southern cities including Khan Younis and Rafah, the Gaza-Egypt border town which is the only crossing not controlled by Israel.

More than half of Gaza's population has been pushed into Rafah and Israeli plans to storm the city have prompted international concern.

The Gaza war has also destabilised the entire Middle East as Hamas's military allies - all Iran-backed paramilitary groups - have targeted Israeli and US interests with missiles and drones.

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