Gaza’s Main Hospital A ‘Death Zone’, Says WHO

People wait their turn to identify relatives killed in Israeli bombardment on Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on November 19, 2023. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

The World Health Organization declared Gaza’s largest hospital a “death zone,” announcing plans to evacuate the institution as Israel’s army warned it was extending operations to defeat Hamas.

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The assessment was made during a visit to the hospital by WHO and other UN officials earlier this week.

In other news, a Hamas health official stated Saturday that more than 80 people were killed in twin strikes on a northern Gaza refugee camp, including a UN school housing displaced people.

Social media videos verified by AFP showed victims covered in blood and dust on the floor of a building in Jabalia, the Palestinian territory’s largest refugee camp, where mattresses had been pushed under classroom tables.

The UNRWA chief, Philippe Lazzarini, recounted “horrifying images” from the incident, while Egypt termed the bombardment a “war crime” and a “deliberate insult to the United Nations.”

A subsequent strike on another building in the Jabalia camp on Saturday killed 32 people from the same family, 19 of whom were youngsters, according to Hamas health officials.

The Israeli army claimed “an incident in the Jabalia region” was being investigated without mentioning the strikes.

In reaction to the October 7 attacks, Israel has pledged to destroy Hamas. According to Israeli sources, over 1,200 people were killed, the most of whom were civilians, and another 240 people were taken prisoner.

According to the Hamas leadership, which has occupied Gaza since 2007, the army’s relentless air and ground onslaught has killed 12,300 civilians, including nearly 5,000 children.

The UN estimates that six weeks of violence have displaced 1.6 million people within the Gaza Strip, and Israel announced Saturday that its military is “expanding its operational activities in additional neighbourhoods in the Gaza Strip.”

Al-Shifa, Gaza’s main hospital, has been a focus in recent days, with Israeli forces charging Hamas utilizes it as a command center, something the group and medical staff deny.

The WHO described the hospital as a “death zone” on Sunday, with a mass grave at the entrance and roughly 300 patients and 25 health personnel remaining inside.

It stated that it was planned “the immediate evacuation of the remaining patients, staff, and their families,” but warned that surrounding institutions were already overcrowded and urged an early ceasefire due to the “extreme suffering of the people of Gaza.”

According to the facility’s director, hundreds of people departed the hospital on foot on Saturday on instructions from the Israeli army.

As massive explosions rang out around the compound, columns of sick and injured persons — some of them were amputees — were seen departing with displaced people, physicians, and nurses.

According to an AFP correspondent on the scene, at least 15 victims were strewn along the route, which was bordered with extensively damaged stores and wrecked automobiles.

Despite collaborating with both sides, the NGO Doctors Without Borders reported a convoy containing its workers and family members was attacked Saturday while leaving from near Al-Shifa. A single person was killed.

Israeli forces denied ordering the hospital’s evacuation, saying they had “acceded to the director’s request” to allow more civilians to escape.

According to the WHO, 29 patients at the hospital are unable to walk without medical assistance, and others have infected wounds due to a lack of antibiotics.

There are also 32 babies in “extremely critical condition,” WHO said.

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