Nov. 13 (UPI) -- The director of the United Nations' humanitarian relief efforts in the Gaza Strip warned Monday that all of its operations will be shut down within 48 hours due to a lack of fuel in the besieged enclave.
Thomas White, director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA, said all of his agency's activities in Gaza will soon "grind to a halt" unless Israeli military forces battling Hamas militants allow more fuel shipments though the southern border crossing at Rafah.
"This morning two of our main water distribution contractors ceased working -- they simply ran out of fuel -- which will deny 200 thousand people potable water," White said in a series of posts on the social media platform X.
No fuel has entered Gaza since Israel began its retaliatory military operations against Hamas on Oct. 7 following the Palestinian group's deadly assault on the Jewish state in which 1,200 Israelis were slain and hundreds more taken captive.
The UNRWA chief's warnings came as Israel Defense Forces focused on battling Hamas gunmen in the vicinities of Gaza's two largest hospitals, Al-Shifa and Al-Quds, which the IDF asserts are used by Hamas as shields and covers for its terrorism operations.
The worsening humanitarian situation at the medical facilities raised widespread alarms and prompted from calls from around the world for Israel to institute a cease-fire, or at least tactical pauses in the fighting to allow fuel and supplies to enter Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has so far refused accept a cease-fire agreement unless Hamas agrees to free hundreds of Israeli hostages taken on Oct. 7, while the IDF said Monday it planned a tactical pause in military operations in the city of Rafah for humanitarian purposes.
European Union Foreign Affairs chief Josep Borrell on Monday as the 27-nation bloc united in calling for humanitarian pauses in the fighting to help those trapped in Gaza and expressing continuing concerns about Israel not allowing water, fuel, food and supplies to come into Gaza.
"We asked Israel to show maximum restraint in order to save civilian lives," he said, while also condemning Hamas for using hospitals in the region as "human shields" to leverage its goals in the war.
The International Committee of the Red Cross on Monday "urgently" called for the protection of civilians in Gaza trapped in fighting, whether they are trying to evacuate or staying where they are, while Justin Welby, Britain's Archbishop of Canterbury, called for a cease-fire.
"The devastating loss of innocent Palestinian life and humanitarian catastrophe resulting from Israel's bombardment and siege of Gaza cannot be morally justified," he wrote in a social media post. "The evil of Hamas cannot be paid by the civilians of Gaza."
At Al-Shifa Hospital, at least three premature babies died following an Israeli missile struck near the facility amid continuous bombing raids against Hamas after more than a month of war.
The resulting explosion overnight Saturday took out a backup generator that was powering Gaza's largest hospital, leaving the facility in the dark and forcing doctors to rescue as many as 40 premature babies from incubators that were helping keep them alive.
Three of the infants died after the blast shut off the power, while two adult patients died in the intensive-care unit from injuries suffered in the blast, said Ahmed Mokhallalati, chief of the plastic surgery department.
"The neo-nates -- they are the ones we are afraid will be dying one by one as we were pushed to move them outside of the incubator area," Mokhallalati told ABC News.
Without oxygen, the surviving infants were wrapped in foil and placed next to hot water to keep them breathing as doctors scrambled for alternative life-saving measures in the darkened corridors of the facility.
Meanwhile, Hamas was engaged in counter operations over the weekend to prevent the remaining infants from being rescued and exert pressure on the hospital to deter them from accepting fuel and other medical assistance from Israel, the Israeli Defense Forces said.
By Sunday, Mokhallalati said ventilators at the hospital were back on, while the continuing bombardment remains the most serious threat to more than 600 patients and thousands more people taking shelter at the facility.
After the bombing, administrators at Al-Shifa Hospital immediately turned down 300 liters of fuel from the IDF, which Mokhallalati described as insufficient, saying it wouldn't have powered the hospital for more than an hour.
Al-Quds Hospital also faced a "catastrophic situation" with power outages and medication, food and water shortages as Israeli ground battles and airstrikes continued, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.
The IDF said it killed 21 "terrorists" who were "embedded" among the civilian population near the hospital on Monday after rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire were directed at them from its direction.
"This incident is another example of Hamas' continued exploitation of sensitive sites, including hospitals, to shoot at IDF forces," the military said.