MSF and Al-Aqsa medical staff reluctantly left behind their patients and internally displaced persons at the facility as Israel’s ground offensive showed no let-up.
Following days-long artillery fighting and Israel issuing aerial orders to evacuate the surrounding neighbourhoods of Central Gaza’s Al Aqsa Hospital, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) announced its staff and their families have been pulled out from the area.
In a series of posts on X on Saturday, Carolina Lopez, the Emergency Coordinator at Al-Aqsa Hospital, said: “The situation became so dangerous that some staff living in the neighbouring areas were not able to leave their houses because of the constant threats of drones and snipers”.
Lopez added the decision was especially uneasy, given that patients, Al-Aqsa hospital staff and internally displaced persons seeking shelter, with nowhere else to go, will remain in the hospital’s premises.
She also revealed that a bullet had substantially penetrated a wall within the hospital’s intensive care unit department on Friday.
In another X post from Saturday, Dr Ebraheem Matar, a Palestinian medic at Al-Aqsa Hospital, said that scores of medical personnel were fleeing the facility in fear of reprisals from Israeli forces, who continue to close in on the hospital.
This humanitarian disaster was echoed earlier by Martin Griffiths, the United Nations Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, who reignited calls for a ceasefire.
In a statement published on Friday, Griffiths said: “Medical facilities are under relentless attack. The few hospitals that are partially functional are overwhelmed with trauma cases, critically short of all supplies, and inundated by desperate people seeking safety”.
This is further compounded by the sheer scale of Gaza’s IDPs being repeatedly forced to relocate to already crowded areas to escape Israel’s indiscriminate onslaught.
“Infectious diseases are spreading in overcrowded shelters as sewers spill over,” Griffiths added.
Latest figures from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs published on Friday estimated that the besieged Strip is withstanding the medical needs of 1.9 million Palestinian IDPs, of which at least 57,910 people are injured.
Under non-stop Israeli ground and aerial offensives, UN OCHA’s impact report said the number of functional hospitals in Gaza has been reduced to 13 and amid critical shortages, each medical facility is having to ration their fuel and blood supplies.
‘Well over 100’ children killed per day in Gaza
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Dr Tanya Haj-Hassan, who works with MSF, warned that amid the carnage in Gaza, Palestinian children are dying at an alarming rate of “well over 100 per day”.
Since October 7, she estimated that at least 10,000 infants have succumbed to their injuries from Israeli bombardment.
“This [figure] excludes the thousands who have been disabled. Over 10,000, according to the UN, are likely [to have had] extremity amputations – so, upper and lower limb amputations. So, children maimed, debilitated for life,” she added.
According to Reem Alsalem, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Israel’s shelling of soft targets is part of its strategy to “break, subjugate and even destroy the population”.
In a stark warning to the international community, and situating Israel’s dissemination of Gaza globally, Alsalem asked: “If the world can watch in real time a full-blown genocide unfolding against Palestinian civilians, what hopes for attention and justice do women and children have in other parts of the world that do not even register on our screens or our collective conscience?”
In a UN OCHA flash update published on Friday, Palestine’s Health Ministry is cited as estimating that at least 22,600 Palestinians have died in Gaza. 70% of those casualties are thought to be women and children.