As outrage grows over reports of baby deaths and the digging of a mass grave at Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital, Israel has publicly indicated its desire to mitigate the crisis there, not by ending the siege but by offering fuel and mobile incubators.

On Sunday night, the Israel Defense Forces released images that appear to show soldiers depositing 300 liters (about 79 gallons) of fuel at the entrance to Al-Shifa and announced an evacuation route for people in the complex to flee. It was promised on Monday that the IDF would coordinate the delivery of incubators to Al-Shifa, following reports that premature babies had to be removed from their incubators due to power shortages. Then on Tuesday, the IDF shared a photo of a female soldier helping to load mobile incubators into a van, which an IDF spokesperson said would be used to transport at-risk babies out of the hospital.

«We are trying to bring in incubators that can help transfer babies from Shifa Hospital to other places in the south, which will help protect the babies in the hospital,» said IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.

The IDF said in a briefing later on Tuesday that the incubators came from Israel’s Tel Hashomer Hospital and were «intended to be used to move premature babies to a safer space.» When asked how they would be delivered to Al-Shifa, spokesman Lt. Col. Amnon Shefler said coordination with the hospital «has not yet been completed.»

Dr. Ahmed El Mokhallalati, a plastic surgeon at Al-Shifa, said the hospital had not yet received an “adequate offer” from the IDF to evacuate the babies.

Israeli forces shared an image on Tuesday that they say shows efforts to transport incubators from Israel to Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza. @IDF via X

Gaza’s hospitals, Al-Shifa in particular, have captured the world’s attention and become one of the most important and controversial issues of the war, as they run out of fuel and resources amid an overwhelming influx of patients. injured by Israeli airstrikes. Israel has repeatedly alleged that Hamas is hiding in tunnels beneath Gaza hospitals, including Al-Shifa, something both Hamas and hospital workers have denied. But images of vulnerable babies and desperate pleas by Al-Shifa medical staff for fuel to keep the hospital running have garnered intense public sympathy.

President Joe Biden said Monday that he hoped there would be “less intrusive measures regarding the hospital” and that the hospital “must be protected.”

Israeli officials seem well aware that the world is watching in dismay.

«The IDF remains committed to fulfilling its moral and professional responsibilities to distinguish between civilians and Hamas terrorists,» the military said in a statement announcing the transfer of the incubators.

However, Al-Shifa doctors and Palestinian Health Ministry spokespersons have highlighted what they see as inadequacies in Israel’s offers.

A ministry spokesman told Reuters on Tuesday that they are not opposed to babies being evacuated from Al-Shifa to a hospital in Egypt, the West Bank or even Israel, but that there is no way to guarantee that can happen safely amid of the fighting. Israel has instituted daily four-hour humanitarian pauses in the fighting in northern Gaza and urged residents to evacuate the south, although southern Gaza has also faced significant shelling.

Babies at Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza.
The babies lay side by side at Al-Shifa Hospital in a photograph sent by Dr. Ahmed El Mokhallalati.Dr. Ahmed El Mokhallalati

Meanwhile, the Red Cross said it is in contact with both sides about Al-Shifa, but that no concrete plans or decisions regarding the transfer of newborns involving the organization have been made.

If an evacuation is not achieved, it is unclear how the delivery of incubators would help save the lives of premature babies when Al-Shifa lacks electricity to feed them (the reason they were removed from the incubators in the first place).

NBC News was also unable to verify when the incubators might be delivered or how the Israeli military would get them to Al-Shifa amid violence in the area, which hospital staff said left them afraid to venture outside.

The promised evacuation route from the hospital also does not appear to have changed the situation: Al-Shifa doctors said on Monday that they were not aware of anyone leaving the hospital in the previous two days.

Dr. Nidal Abu Hadrus, a neurosurgeon at Al-Shifa, said on Monday that it was impossible for people to leave because of the nearby sounds of shelling and gunfire outside.

“It’s not safe to move. It’s not safe to stay. “We don’t know what to do,” she stated.

Although many people were able to evacuate from Al-Shifa early in the conflict, fighting in the area has intensified since Friday, and the World Health Organization said 600 patients remained there on Monday. The Mokhallalati estimated the number to be closer to 700 and said there are also 700 personnel there and between 2,000 and 3,000 civilian refugees. Israel has denied that Al-Shifa is under siege.

As for the 300 liters of fuel that Israel left at the hospital entrance, a doctor said Sunday that Al-Shifa staff had not recovered it because the amount was practically a drop in the bucket. At least 10,000 liters per day (2,640 gallons) would be needed to run vital parts of the hospital, according to Dr. Marwan Abusada, a surgeon at the hospital and also head of international cooperation at the Ministry of Health.

An Israeli army soldier walks towards the structure of a building carrying gallon containers, as they say, while delivering fuel to Al Shifa hospital, in a given place like Gaza.
An image from the Israel Defense Forces shows a soldier carrying containers that the army says contain fuel for the Al-Shifa hospital on Sunday. Israeli Army / via Reuters

The IDF alleged that Hamas had told hospital staff not to collect the fuel. On Tuesday he said the delivery was only intended to “buy more time” to save the lives of people in the hospital, specifically babies and children, and not to manage the entire hospital.

Al-Shifa was forced to bury its dead in a mass grave inside the complex on Tuesday, with around 180 bodies buried there, El Mokhallalati said.

Hospital director Midhat Abbas said the bodies had begun to decompose.

The hospital «has become a veritable cemetery for the sick and wounded,» he said.

Yuliya Talmazan reported from London and Chantal Da Silva from Tel Aviv.