31 premature babies evacuated from Shifa hospital in Gaza to be transferred to Egypt

AP , Sunday 19 Nov 2023

31 premature babies were evacuated from Gaza's main hospital, Al-Shifa on Sunday and will be transferred to Egypt, Palestinian health officials said, as scores of other critically wounded patients remained stranded there days after Israeli forces stormed the compound.

FILE -Prematurely born Palestinian babies in Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023. AP


The fate of the newborns at Al-Shifa Hospital captured global attention after the release of images showing doctors trying to keep them warm. A power blackout had shut down incubators and other equipment, and food, water and medical supplies ran out as Israeli forces besieged the hospital.

A World Health Organization team that visited the hospital on Saturday said 291 patients were still there, including 32 babies in extremely critical condition, trauma patients with severely infected wounds, and others with spinal injuries who are unable to move.

Medhat Abbas, a spokesman for the ministry, confirmed the evacuation of 30 babies. The Palestinian Red Crescent rescue service said it evacuated 31 babies in coordination with U.N. bodies. It said they would be transferred to a hospital run by the United Arab Emirates in the Egyptian city of Rafah.

There was no immediate comment from the WHO, and it was not clear if all the babies had been evacuated. Initialy, the WHO said 32 babies remain at the hospital,

Underscoring the perils of movement inside the coastal enclave, Doctors Without Borders said a convoy of clearly marked vehicles carrying staff and their families was fired upon in Gaza City on Saturday. A relative of a staff member was killed and another person was injured, the aid group said.

About 2,500 displaced people, mobile patients and medical staff were focred to leave Shifa Hospital on 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 Shifa as a death zone.

Israel has long alleged that Hamas maintains a sprawling command post inside and under Shifa, without providing evidence to support its allegations even after the invasion of the hospital,

Hamas and hospital staff deny the allegations, and critics have held up the hospital as a symbol of Israel's reckless endangerment of civilians. About 12,000 have been killed in Israeli strikes, and there are severe shortages of food, water, medicine and fuel in the besieged territory.


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