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Hundreds flee Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital on foot

19-11-2023

GAZA CITY: Hundreds of people evacuated Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital on foot Saturday, a journalist at the scene saw, after the hospital director said the Israeli army ordered the hospital emptied.

The Hamas-run health ministry said in a statement 120 wounded were still at the facility, along with an unspecified number of premature babies, adding it was in touch with the Red Cross about the infants.

Officials said a few medical staff stayed behind to care for those who could not be moved.

Columns of sick and injured some of them amputees displaced people, doctors and nurses, made their way towards the seafront.

Israel’s army denied ordering the evacuation.

The army “acceded to the request of the director of the Shifa Hospital to enable additional Gazans who were in the hospital, and would like to evacuate, to do so” an army statement said.

The United Nations estimated 2,300 patients, staff and displaced Palestinians were sheltering at Al-Shifa before Israeli troops moved in on Wednesday.

Israel accuses Hamas of staging attacks from hideouts under the sprawling health complex, and its troops are combing buildings for evidence to back their claims.

Hamas, the movement which governs Gaza and has an armed wing, has consistently denied using hospitals as bases for combatants.

Hamas health officials say dozens of patients have died at the hospital owing to blackouts due to fuel shortages caused by intense combat in northern Gaza.

Later on Saturday, the head of UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, said that it had received “horrifying images and footage of scores of people killed and injured” after the UN school in Al Fakhoora where they were sheltering was struck.

“These attacks cannot become commonplace, they must stop,” Philippe Lazzarini wrote on social media site X. “A humanitarian ceasefire cannot wait any longer.”

Israel’s military said it was looking into the incident.

Yousef Aboul Rish, the head of the health ministry in Gaza, told Al Jazeera that people had left al-Shifa pushing the injured on hospital beds and wheelchairs along a severely damaged road that was strewn with bodies from the fighting.

On Friday, Herzi Halevi, the chief of the general staff, said Israel’s military would continue its operations in the strip and target “more and more regions”, after it dropped thousands of leaflets in Khan Younis in southern Gaza urging people to leave their homes.

Hundreds of thousands of Gazans have already fled to the south of the strip to avoid the fighting. But on Friday, Mark Regev, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Israel was now asking people in Khan Younis to move towards what it has said will be a “safe zone” in Muwasi, a 14 sq km area in the south-west of the territory. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)

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