UN: 32 Babies in Critical Condition Are Among Patients Left at Gaza's Main Hospital

Relatives of Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes mourn at Nasser hospital, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Hamas, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip November 19, 2023. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
Relatives of Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes mourn at Nasser hospital, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Hamas, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip November 19, 2023. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
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UN: 32 Babies in Critical Condition Are Among Patients Left at Gaza's Main Hospital

Relatives of Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes mourn at Nasser hospital, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Hamas, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip November 19, 2023. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
Relatives of Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes mourn at Nasser hospital, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Hamas, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip November 19, 2023. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

A United Nations team said Sunday that 291 patients were left at Gaza’s largest hospital after Israeli troops had others evacuate. Those left included 32 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 Shifa Hospital for an hour after about 2,500 displaced people, mobile patients and medical staff left the sprawling compound Saturday morning, said the World Health Organization, which led the mission.

“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. It said more teams will attempt to reach Shifa in coming days to try to evacuate the patients to southern Gaza, where hospitals are also overwhelmed.

Israeli troops are staying in the hospital. Israel’s military has been searching Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital for a Hamas command center that it alleges is located under the facility — a claim Hamas and hospital staff deny.

Saturday's mass departure was portrayed by Israel as voluntary, but described by some of those leaving as a forced exodus.

“We left at gunpoint,” Mahmoud Abu Auf told The Associated Press by phone after he and his family left the crowded hospital. “Tanks and snipers were everywhere inside and outside.” He said he saw Israeli troops detain three men.

Elsewhere in northern Gaza, dozens of people were killed in the urban Jabaliya refugee camp when what witnesses described as an Israeli airstrike hit a crowded UN shelter in the main combat zone. It caused massive destruction in the camp's Fakhoura school, said wounded survivors Ahmed Radwan and Yassin Sharif.

“The scenes were horrifying. Corpses of women and children were on the ground. Others were screaming for help,” Radwan said by phone. AP photos from a local hospital showed more than 20 bodies wrapped in bloodstained sheets.

The Israeli military, which had warned Jabaliya residents and others in a social media post in Arabic to leave, 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 minimize civilian harm.

“Receiving horrifying images & footage of scores of people killed and injured in another UNRWA school sheltering thousands of displaced," Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner general of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, or UNRWA, said on X, formerly Twitter.

In southern Gaza, an Israeli airstrike hit a residential building on the outskirts of the town of Khan Younis, killing at least 26 Palestinians, according to a doctor at the hospital where the bodies were taken.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel's forces have begun operating in eastern Gaza City while continuing its mission in western areas. “With every passing day, there are fewer places where Hamas terrorists can operate,” he said, adding that the militants would learn that in southern Gaza “in the coming days."

His comments were the clearest indication yet that the military plans to expand its offensive to southern Gaza, where Israel had told Palestinian civilians to flee early in the war.

The evacuation zone is already crammed with displaced civilians, and it was not clear where they would go if the offensive moves closer.

What led to the Shifa Hospital evacuation wasn't immediately known. Israel's military said it was asked by the hospital’s director to help those who would like to leave do so, and that it did not order an evacuation. But Medhat Abbas, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza, said the military ordered the facility cleared and gave the hospital an hour to get people out.

The UN team visiting after the evacuation said 25 medical staff remained, along with the patients. The World Health Organization said that in the next 24–72 hours, pending guarantees of safe passage, more missions were being arranged to evacuate to the Nasser Medical Complex and the European Gaza Hospital in southern Gaza.

Twenty-five of Gaza's hospitals aren't functioning due to a lack of fuel, damage and other problems, and the other 11 are only partially operational, according to the World Health Organization.

Israel has said hospitals in northern Gaza were a key target of its ground offensive, claiming they were used as militant command centers and weapons depots, which both Hamas and medical staff deny.

Internet and phone services were restored Saturday to Gaza, ending a telecommunications outage that had forced the United Nations to shut down critical aid deliveries.

More than 11,500 Palestinians have been killed, according to Palestinian health authorities. Another 2,700 have been reported missing, believed buried under rubble. The count does not differentiate between civilians and combatants; Israel says it has killed thousands of militants.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that the Israeli military would have “full freedom” to operate within the territory after the war. The comments again put him in conflict with US visions for a post-war Gaza.



Israel Carries Out New Raids in Gaza as Netanyahu Visits US 

This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
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Israel Carries Out New Raids in Gaza as Netanyahu Visits US 

This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)

Israeli forces carried out new raids in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, hours before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to address the US Congress.

The latest Israeli attacks destroyed homes in towns east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza and thousands of people were forced to head west to seek shelter, residents said.

The Palestinian Civil Emergency Service said it had received distress calls from residents trapped in their homes in Bani Suhaila, east of Khan Younis, but were unable to reach the town.

Israel's military, which is trying to eradicate the armed group Hamas after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, said it had been operating in areas from which fighters had been able to fire rockets into Israel and attack Israeli troops.

Gaza health officials said Israeli military strikes in the past 24 hours had killed at least 55 people, the latest casualties in a war that health authorities in the enclave say has killed more than 39,000 Palestinians.

"Where should we go? Shall we cross into the sea?" said Ghada, who has been displaced with her family six times during the war, said from Hamas City in northwestern Khan Younis.

"We are exhausted, starved, and want the war to end now, now not an hour later. Every day means more families are wiped off the registration book," she told Reuters via a chat app.

Local residents said they had been ordered to head west towards a designated humanitarian area, but that the area was now unsafe.

Israeli forces also carried out airstrikes on several areas of central and northern Gaza Strip, killing and wounding several Palestinians, health officials said.

Residents of Rafah, near the border with Egypt, said Israeli forces had blown up several houses in the west of the city.

PALESTINIANS CRITICISE U.S.

Hamas-led fighters triggered the war on Oct. 7 by storming into southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking 250 captives, according to Israeli tallies. Some 120 hostages are still being held though Israel believes one in three are dead.

Some Palestinians who gathered at a hospital in Khan Younis before funerals criticized the United States, Israel's most important international ally, for welcoming Netanyahu.

The Israel leader was due to address Congress later on Wednesday and to meet President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said he would meet Netanyahu in Florida on Friday.

"The United States is a main partner in what is happening in Gaza. We are being killed because of the United States. We are being slaughtered by American planes, American ships, American tanks, and American troops," said Kazem Abu Taha, a displaced resident from Rafah.

A senior Hamas official, Sami Abu Zuhri, told Reuters: "The Congress invitation to Netanyahu to make a speech gives legitimacy to the crimes of the war of genocide in Gaza. Receiving a war criminal is a shame to all Americans."

Israel has rejected accusations brought by South Africa at the UN's top court that its military operation in Gaza is a state-led genocide campaign against Palestinians. It has reacted angrily to a decision by the International Criminal Court's prosecutor to seek an arrest warrant against Netanyahu.

Netanyahu said this week a deal to release Israelis held captive in Gaza could be near. But Hamas officials said Netanyahu was stalling and that they had not seen any change in the Israeli stance that would allow an agreement to be reached.

Hamas wants a ceasefire agreement to end the war in Gaza. Netanyahu says the war cannot end before Hamas is eradicated.