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Thousands of wounded people are overwhelming Gaza's largest hospital

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

On the fourth day of the declared war in the south of Israel and Gaza, Israel's military says it has regained control of areas in the south of the country attacked by Hamas militants. In Gaza...

(SOUNDBITE OF EXPLOSION)

MARTIN: ...Retaliatory airstrikes from Israel have crushed entire neighborhoods and left hundreds dead and many more injured even after the Israeli army gave advance orders for civilians to evacuate. But there's really nowhere for them to go. Thousands of the wounded are being taken to the city's largest hospital, Dar Al-Shifa.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Our team spoke with the director of that hospital, Dr. Muhammad al-Salmiya (ph). He says the hospital is overwhelmed.

MUHAMMAD ABU SALMIYA: (Through interpreter) The injured people is more than 4,000. Our capacity is for around 500 patients. And we try to discharge as soon as we can, but we have so many patients coming in. We are overwhelmed. It's a problem.

INSKEEP: Dr. Salmiya said supplies and medicine were already running low on Monday. And he feared that electricity would go next.

MARTIN: Israel cut off power to Gaza after Hamas launched its attack over the weekend. The hospital is relying on a generator with a dwindling supply of fuel.

SALMIYA: (Through interpreter) You know, it is very difficult to run an electrical generator for 18 hours a day. And, of course, the generators we have do not support the amount of equipment we need to use.

INSKEEP: Salmiya says hospital staff are forced to decide which patients get treated first if they're treated at all. And those decisions become more wrenching as the death toll grows.

SALMIYA: (Through interpreter) We are doing what we can to handle the most difficult cases first and get the simple cases handled fast to make space. And we're calling on the international community to send help with medical equipment and supplies and medicine, so we support the field hospital to be able to handle the amount of the wounded. But if it continues down this path, with the closure of borders in this way, then it will be a very difficult situation.

MARTIN: As we've reported, Israel has tightened its blockade on Gaza, preventing water, food and fuel from entering the region. The group Human Rights Watch says these restrictions are a war crime. They said the same of Hamas's unprecedented attack on Israel. Caught in between are civilians, who feared this war would someday come. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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