Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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    Wounded and Displaced: Departures from Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital Amid Israeli Troop Searches

    Patients who were wounded, along with healthcare workers and a large number of displaced Palestinians, left Gaza City’s Al-Shifa hospital complex on Saturday. This occurred as Israeli troops surrounded and conducted searches of the facility, believing it to house a Hamas command center.

    The circumstances surrounding the departures from the hospital, which is Gaza’s largest, were marked by confusion. Witnesses reported that the Israeli military had announced an evacuation, while the military stated that they had agreed to a request from the director of Al-Shifa to assist civilians in safely leaving the complex.

    According to one witness interviewed by telephone, Israeli troops used megaphones to announce the evacuation. He noted that most departing Palestinians had left on foot, as there were no ambulances available. The roads leading away from the hospital had also been heavily damaged by bombings.

    The Israeli military clarified that they had not ordered the evacuation but had responded to the hospital director’s request to facilitate the safe departure of patients and medical workers who wished to leave. They stated that medical personnel would remain in the hospital to support patients unable to evacuate, and they provided additional food, water, and humanitarian assistance overnight.

    The exact number of patients, staff members, and Israeli soldiers remaining inside the complex remained unclear. An official from the Gaza Health Ministry, controlled by Hamas, reported that at least 120 patients and five doctors were still inside.

    Over the past three days, Israeli soldiers had entered the hospital complex, claiming it contained an underground Hamas military command center. Both Hamas and Al-Shifa officials denied these accusations. Israeli troops searching the complex reported finding weapons caches and the bodies of two Israeli hostages captured by Hamas during an earlier attack near the hospital. However, conclusive proof of a subterranean military base had not been provided.

    In a previous visit on Thursday, the Israeli military had escorted journalists from The New York Times to Al-Shifa. During the visit, they were shown a stone-and-concrete shaft with a descending staircase, which the military asserted was evidence of Hamas presence.

    The United Nations reported that since November 11, at least 40 patients, including four premature babies, had died in Al-Shifa due to power outages.

    Dr. Adnan al-Bursh, a doctor at Al-Shifa, stated in a televised interview that Israeli troops had directed those remaining in the hospital to leave from the compound’s eastern side. They marched past tanks, with some following Israeli orders to flee to southern Gaza, while others headed elsewhere in the embattled north of Gaza.

    The conflict in Gaza had erupted last month when Hamas carried out attacks in southern Israel, resulting in casualties and hostage-taking. The Israeli authorities reported that approximately 1,200 people were killed by Hamas, and the war had resulted in over 11,000 deaths in Gaza, according to Gazan health officials.

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