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Hundreds flee Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital on foot amid Israel’s ongoing attacks

Patients and medics are pictured at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on November 10, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

Hundreds of patients have evacuated the Al-Shifa Hospital in the Gaza Strip, fleeing south on foot, as the Israeli military continues its attacks on hospitals and medical centers across the besieged enclave.

The Gaza health ministry said in a statement on Saturday that the evacuation started after the Israeli military ordered people to leave the largest medical complex in Gaza, where thousands of patients, staff, and displaced people were trapped.

The ministry added that 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.

Sick and injured people -- some of them amputees -- displaced people, doctors and nurses, were seen walking on a road leading south.

Yousef Abu-Al Rish, Gaza’s deputy health minister people had left al-Shifa pushing the injured on hospital beds and wheelchairs along a severely damaged road where bodies were scattered on it.

 “It was a terrifying scene with families and injured children, some with amputated hands who had been asked to walk in a straight line [single file] between two Israeli tanks,” he said. “As soon as we emerged past the Israeli guns, local people came to help us and carry the injured with us. The biggest group from the injured are heading to the south.”

Riham Jafari, a spokesperson for ActionAid Palestine, a humanitarian and campaigning group, also described the evacuation of patients as “a death sentence for hundreds of people who will be forced to leave behind life-saving care and travel miles to hospitals that are no longer operational.”

The Israeli military has denied ordering the evacuation in a statement, saying it had “acceded to the request” of the director of the hospital to enable “additional Gazans who were in the hospital and would like to evacuate, to do so."

The Al-Shifa Hospital has become one of the main focuses of Israel’s offensive.

The regime has been targeting hospitals in the strip since the beginning of its war on Gaza on October 7, claiming Hamas uses them as command centers.

Hamas has dismissed Israel’s allegations, saying it runs a vast network of underground tunnels and doesn’t need to use hospitals in any manner.

The Palestinian resistance group has called on the UN to form an investigative team in order to debunk Tel Aviv’s allegations.

Palestine’s Foreign Ministry condemns forced evacuation of Al-Shifa Hospital

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates has condemned Israel’s forced evacuation of Al-Shifa Hospital in a tweet on Saturday, saying it represents an official Israeli insistence on completing the episodes of execution and genocide against any Palestinian presence in Gaza City and the northern Strip.”

“This deepens the humanitarian and environmental catastrophe facing the Strip. It is also a literal translation of the calls of extremist Israeli zealots who incite and demand the burning of Gaza, as they previously called for and practiced in the burning of Huwara,” the ministry added, according to Palestine's official Wafa news agency. 

Israel waged the war on Gaza on October 7 after Hamas carried out the surprise Operation Al-Aqsa Storm into the occupied territories in response to the occupying regime’s intensified crimes against the Palestinian people.

According to the Gaza-based health ministry, at least 12,000 Palestinians have been killed in the strikes, most of them women and children.

Tel Aviv has also imposed a “complete siege” on Gaza, cutting off fuel, electricity, food and water to the more than two million Palestinians living there.

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