At least 26 out of 35 hospitals in Gaza are either damaged or out of service.
All 31 premature babies in Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital have been evacuated along with medics to the Al-Emarati Maternity Hospital in the south with “preparations underway” to transfer them to Egypt, health officials on the ground confirmed to the press on Sunday.
Mohammed Zaqout, the director-general of hospitals in Gaza, told journalists in the Strip that the babies have been evacuated along with “three doctors and two nurses”, Al Jazeera reported.
Al-Shifa, Gaza’s largest hospital, initially had what reports said were around 39 incubator babies last week in desperate need of oxygen to stay alive. The World Health Organization (WHO) said that none of the babies were accompanied by their families, noting that the hospital “is no longer able to function”.
The matter has been of major concern among medics in Gaza grappling with an extreme power and oxygen shortage due to the complete Israeli siege on the Strip under the non-stop bombardment.
Patients, medics and displaced Palestinians were stranded in the hospital with no resources following the Israeli occupation forces’ (IOF) raid of the facility last week before forcing everyone to evacuate to the south under gunpoint.
Zaqout told Al Jazeera that the babies that were trapped inside Al-Shifa had dehydration, hypothermia and sepsis.
WHO separately confirmed on Sunday that it worked alongside the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) to evacuate the babies to the hospital in southern Gaza through six ambulances.
Other United Nations entities involved in the “high-risk” mission included the UN Mine Action, the children’s agency (UNICEF), and Palestinian refugees agency (UNRWA).
“These premature and low birthweight babies had earlier been moved from the neonatal unit in Al-Shifa to a safer area in the hospital, due to lack of electricity to run their life support, and security risks in the hospital,” WHO said in a statement, confirming two babies had died on Sunday shortly before the evacuation.
Citing doctors in the south, WHO said “all the babies are fighting serious infections due to lack of medical supplies”, with 11 in critical condition, with Gaza’s health ministry unable to identify or locate their family members.
The UN health agency said that more than 250 patients and 20 health workers remained at Al-Shifa at the time of their mission, saying they all required “immediate evacuation.”
It said that it is working on their evacuation as well as their families, with priority to 22 dialysis patients and 50 others with spinal injuries.
“WHO reiterates its plea for collective efforts to bring an end to the hostilities and humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. We call for an immediate ceasefire, the sustained flow of humanitarian assistance at scale, unhindered humanitarian access to all of those in need,” it said.
Gaza’s hospitals have been among the IOF’s main targets since the launch of the deadly war on October 7, where at least 13,000 Palestinians, including more than 4,710 children, have been killed.
Israel has justified its targeting of hospitals over allegations of the presence of Hamas tunnels inside the buildings that have been used as command centres. Those allegations have been debunked by numerous investigations, including one by Human Rights Watch.
At least 26 out of 35 hospitals in Gaza are either damaged or out of service, Palestine’s news agency (Wafa) reported on Sunday. The IOF has also killed 205 health personnel and 36 civil defence members since the start of the war, Wafa added.
British-Palestinian doctor Ghassan Abu Sitta, who became one of the most prominent voices reporting the atrocities in Gaza, was forced to leave the Palestinian city on Saturday after the IOF raided the Strip’s hospitals.
“I left Gaza yesterday [Saturday]. My heart and my soul are still there with my patients. I remember their names and their wounds. I will fight until they receive the treatment they need and the justice they deserve. My heart is broken in ways I never knew was possible,” he said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Speaking to Al Jazeera on Sunday from Amman, Abu Sitta recounted the horrifying moments in which the IOF raided and attacked Al-Shifa on Friday, offering a rare detailed witness account of the incident.
“We started seeing this quadcopter[…]and this is a drone that is a sniper drone and it was targeting the patients that were trying to come to the hospital with single, high velocity gunshots,” he said.
He noted that the destruction of Gaza’s health sector has been the main strategy of the Israeli war.
“The Israeli strategy was to destroy the health system so they would not survive the wounds that they have[…]it is obvious that this is a genocidal war,” he said.
Meanwhile, on Monday, witnesses on the ground confirmed that Israeli tanks had encircled the Indonesian Hospital after launching direct strikes on the facility, where at least 12 were killed.