31 premature babies evacuated from ‘death zone’ Gaza hospital
'Patients and health staff with whom they spoke were terrified for their safety and health, and pleaded for evacuation.'
31 premature babies have been evacuated from Gaza’s largest hospital, the World Health Organisation has confirmed.
They were among 291 patients left Shifa Hospital after a mass evacuation of patients and displaced people from the site.
The babies, as well as six health workers and 10 staff family members, have been evacuated to a hospital in the city of Rafa where they are receiving urgent care, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
They will then be moved to Egypt, health officials added.
The confirmation from the United Nations team follows conflicting reports from Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry and the Palestinian Red Crescent rescue service.
The babies are in an ‘extremely critical condition’, and other patients left at Shifa Hospital include trauma patients with infected wounds and people with spinal injuries who are unable to move.
Their plight captured global attention after images showed doctors trying to keep them warm without the help of incubators, due to a lack of power.
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The WHO team said it was able to tour Shifa Hospital for an hour after about 2,500 displaced people, mobile patients, and medical staff left the compound on Saturday morning.
It said 25 medical staff remained along with the almost 300 patients who could not leave, after Israeli troops ordered the hospital evacuation, and described the hospital as a ‘death zone’.
A WHO spokesman said: ‘Patients and health staff with whom they spoke were terrified for their safety and health, and pleaded for evacuation.’
It’s hoped more teams will try to reach Shifa Hospital in the coming days to evacuate more patients to southern Gaza – however hospitals there are already overwhelmed.
Israel has long alleged that Hamas maintains a sprawling command post inside and under Shifa.
It has portrayed the hospital as a key target in its war to end the militants’ rule in Gaza following their wide-ranging attack into southern Israel on October 7, which triggered the war.
Hamas and hospital staff deny the allegations.
Saturday’s mass departure was portrayed by Israel as voluntary, but the WHO said the military had issued evacuation orders, and some of those who left described it as a forced exodus.
‘We left at gunpoint,’ Mahmoud Abu Auf said after he and his family left the crowded hospital.
‘Tanks and snipers were everywhere inside and outside.’
The Israeli military, which has repeatedly called on Palestinians to leave northern Gaza, said only that its troops were active in the area ‘with the aim of hitting terrorists’.
It rarely comments on individual strikes, saying only that it targets Hamas while trying to minimise civilian harm.
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