Gaza medics say 31 premature babies evacuated from Al-Shifa hospital

19 Nov 2023 10:42pm
Believed to be among the premature babies at Al-Shifa Hospital. (Reuters pic)
Believed to be among the premature babies at Al-Shifa Hospital. (Reuters pic)

KHAN YUNIS, Palestine - A top health official in the Gaza Strip said all 31 premature babies at Al-Shifa hospital had been evacuated Sunday from the facility which the WHO has described as a "death zone".

The move was confirmed by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PCRS), which said its teams carried out the evacuation in coordination with UN agencies including the World Health Organization.

Mohammed Zaqut, director general of hospitals in Gaza, told AFP "all 31 premature babies in Al-Shifa hospital... have been evacuated" along with three doctors and two nurses.

"Preparations are under way" for them to enter Egypt, he added.

Al-Shifa hospital has become a focal point for Israeli operations with the army claiming Hamas uses it as a base as troops seek to destroy the militants behind the Oct 7 operations. Since then, the Hamas health authority says Israel's military campaign has killed more than 12,300 people, mostly civilians.

The PCRS confirmed its teams had "successfully evacuated... 31 premature babies from Al-Shifa" in a statement that said they were "transported by PRCS ambulances to the south".

In an overnight announcement, the WHO said it had sent an assessment team to the hospital and described it as a "death zone", saying it was "urgently developing plans for the immediate evacuation of the remaining patients, staff and their families".

The visit came after hundreds fled the hospital, Gaza's largest, following what Al-Shifa's director said were Israeli army orders for it to be emptied.

Israel denied ordering the move.

An AFP journalist at the scene saw crowds of sick, injured and displaced people walking towards the seafront, with the health ministry saying 120 patients had stayed behind, among them a number of premature babies.

"Many patients can not leave the hospital as they are in the ICU beds or the baby incubators," Ahmed al-Mokhallalati, a doctor at the hospital, wrote Saturday on X, formerly Twitter.

Following its visit to Al-Shifa, the WHO said 291 patients and 25 health workers were still inside the hospital in figures issued several hours before the babies were evacuated.

Since Nov 11, when fuel supplies ran out at Al-Shifa, eight babies have died due to the lack of electricity to run incubator units, the health ministry has said. - AFP

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