At least 28 premature babies were evacuated by the Palestinian Red Crescent from a hospital in southern Gaza to another across the border in Egypt on Monday. Pictures from Egyptian media showed babies inside ambulances in the presence of doctors and medical assistants who placed the tiny newborns in incubators on top of trolleys next to the Rafah crossing point.
This comes a day after 31 premature babies in “extremely critical condition” were evacuated from the conflict-hit al-Shifa hospital, Gaza’s largest medical centre, said health officials on Sunday. The babies will also go to Egypt, while more than 250 patients remain stranded in the midst of an Israeli military operation there.
The newborns were receiving urgent care in southern Gaza’s Rafah after being transferred from the basically non-functioning hospital. They suffered from dehydration, hypothermia and sepsis in some cases, said Mohamed Zaqout, director of Gaza hospitals.
Zaqout further said that four babies had died two days before the evacuation. In the last few days, the hospital became a major focus in the deadly war between Israel and Hamas, with Al-Shifa running out of fuel, electricity and other essential supplies.
A World Health Organisation (WHO) team visiting the hospital said that most patients there had amputations, burns and trauma. The 250 patients still stranded there have severely infected wounds and other urgent conditions.
Fighting continues near hospitals
Israeli forces pressed their offensive against Hamas in northern Gaza on Monday as they continued to fight Hamas for more than a month since the war broke out. According to the Health Ministry in Gaza, a shell struck the second floor of the Indonesian Hospital, killing 12 people.
However, Israel denied shelling the hospital, saying its troops returned fire on militants who targeted them from inside the compound.
Regarding the al-Shifa hospital, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) on Sunday (local time) released surveillance footage from Gaza’s largest hospital that it claims to show Hamas militants bringing two foreign hostages – a Nepali and Thai citizen – captured during the Hamas attack on October 7 to the medical centre.
The IDF also shared new footage of the underground network of tunnels and bunkers beneath the hospital, as its military operation in the facility continues. “These findings prove that the Hamas terrorist organization used the Shifa Hospital complex on the day of the October 7 Massacre as terrorist infrastructure,” said the Israeli military on social media platform X.
The military also claimed that the 19-year-old Israeli female soldier Noa Marciano was killed there. According to IDF, her body was found and extracted by troops adjacent to the Shifa Hospital in Gaza.
“On November 9, CPL Noa Marciano was injured from an IAF strike and the terrorist holding her hostage was neutralized. Following a preliminary pathological report, it was revealed that Noa’s injury was not life-threatening. Noa was murdered by a Hamas terrorist in the Shifa Hospital,” said IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari.
Israel has been under pressure to prove its claims that Hamas had a major operations command centre in and beneath the facility and used the patients to provide cover for terrorists. These claims were denied by Hamas and the hospital staff.
Senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan dismissed the Israeli military’s announcement and didn’t deny that Gaza has hundreds of kilometres of tunnels. However, he said, “The Israelis said there was a command and control center, which means that the matter is greater than just a tunnel.”
Gaza’s hospitals play a prominent role in the battle of narratives over the war’s brutal toll on Palestinian civilians, with more than 13,000 people killed after Israel retaliated for the October 7 attack that claimed the lives of 1,200 people in the Jewish state.
Hamas also took some 240 people hostage, leading to a ground offensive by Israeli forces in which 63 soldiers have been killed so far. Hamas has released four hostages, Israel has rescued one, and the bodies of two were found near Shifa. US President Joe Biden and the White House said that they are close to a deal for the release of some of the hostages.
Meanwhile, heavy clashes were reported in the built-up Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza. “There was the constant sound of gunfire and tank shelling,” Yassin Sharif told the Associated Press, who is sheltering in a UN-run hospital there.
At least 24 people were killed in a recent airstrike at a UN-run school in Jabaliya. The Israeli military, which has repeatedly called on Palestinians to leave northern Gaza, said only that its troops were active in the area “with the aim of hitting terrorists.”
(with AP inputs)