The Palestinian Red Crescent’s ambulance teams evacuated 31 premature babies from Al-Shifa Hospital on Sunday in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, according to a post on the group’s Facebook page.
The newborns were moved to the south of Gaza “in preparation for their transfer to the Emirates Hospital in Rafah,” according to the group.
Later in the day Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesperson for the Health Ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza, told a news conference that the babies had been moved to Tal Alsultan Hospital in Rafah and will be sent to Egyptian hospitals with their families tomorrow.
The WHO team said earlier Sunday that 291 patients were left at Al-Shifa after Israeli troops had others evacuate. They included the babies in extremely critical condition , trauma patients with severely infected wounds, and others with spinal injuries who are unable to move.
The team was able to tour Al-Shifa Hospital for an hour after about 2,500 displaced people, mobile patients and medical staff left the sprawling compound Saturday morning, the WHO said. It said 25 medical staff remained, along with the patients.
“Patients and health staff with whom they spoke were terrified for their safety and health, and pleaded for evacuation,” the agency said, describing Al-Shifa as a death zone. It said it hopes to evacuate patients to southern Gaza, where hospitals are also overwhelmed.
Israel has long alleged that Hamas maintains a sprawling command post inside and under Al-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 six weeks ago, which triggered the war.
Hamas and hospital staff deny the allegations. Israeli troops who have been based at the hospital and searching its grounds for days say they have found guns and other weapons, and showed reporters the entrance to a tunnel shaft. The AP couldn’t independently verify Israel’s findings.
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.