KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip (NEWSnetAP) — Battles between Israel and Hamas around hospitals forced thousands of Palestinians to flee from some of the perceived safe places in Gaza, stranding critically wounded patients, newborns and their caregivers with dwindling supplies and no electricity, health officials said Monday.

Israel’s military has urged Palestinians to flee south on foot through what it calls safe corridors. More than two-thirds of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes.

Thousands fled Gaza’s Shifa Hospital over the weekend as Israeli troops encircled it, and doctors said gunfire and explosions raged around it Monday.

Hundreds of patients and displaced people remain in the hospital, officials say. Shifa “is not functioning as a hospital anymore,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of World Health Organization.

After power was cut for Shifa’s incubators days ago, the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza released a photo on Monday it says shows about a dozen premature babies wrapped in blankets together on a bed to keep them at a proper temperature.

Red Cross was attempting evacuation Monday involving 6,000 patients, staff and displaced people from a second hospital, Al-Quds, after it closed for lack of fuel, but its convoy had to turn back because of shelling and fighting.

For weeks, staff running low on supplies have performed surgery at Shifa on war-wounded patients, without anesthesia.

Palestinians accuse Israel of firing recklessly toward hospitals, while Israel accuses Hamas of using the hospitals for cover.

International law gives hospitals protection during war. But hospitals can lose those that safeguard if combatants use them to hide fighters or store weapons, according to International Committee of the Red Cross.

Even so, there must be plenty of warning to allow evacuation and if harm to civilians from an attack is disproportionate to the military objective, it is illegal under international law. 

Israel’s military said it placed about 80 gallons of fuel several blocks from Shifa, but Hamas militants prevented staff from reaching it. The Health Ministry disputes that, saying Israel refused its request that Red Crescent bring them the fuel rather than staff venturing for it. The fuel would have provided less than an hour of electricity, it said.

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