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WHO, Palestinian Red Crescent Evacuate 31 Infants from Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital

November 20, 2023

Thirty-one neonatal infants were evacuated from al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza, alongside six health workers and 10 staff family members, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on 19 November.

The evacuation was carried out through a joint mission by WHO, the Palestinian Red Crescent, and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), as well as other UN agencies, including the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

The infants were transported in six ambulances to the neonatal intensive care unit at al-Helal al-Emarati Maternity Hospital in southern Gaza, where they are being assessed and stabilized. The doctors reported that 11 infants are in critical condition, and the rest are fighting severe infections due to the lack of medical supplies and infection control measures in al-Shifa Hospital.

Since 11 November, 40 patients, including four premature babies, have died in al-Shifa hospital due to fuel shortages and lack of electricity.

“Further missions are being planned to urgently transport remaining patients and health staff out of Al-Shifa Hospital,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on 19 November.

There are over 250 patients and 20 health workers at al-Shifa who need to be evacuated. Priority will be given to the 22 patients in dialysis and 50 others with spinal injuries, according to the WHO.

WHO dubbed al-Shifa Hospital a “death zone” after a visit on 18 November by the organization and other UN officials to the hospital. On 15 November, Israeli forces targeted al-Shifa hospital, alleging it to be a cover for a Hamas command center within a civilian refuge.

“We call for an immediate ceasefire, the sustained flow of humanitarian assistance at scale, unhindered humanitarian access to all of those in need, the unconditional release of all hostages—many of whom have serious medical needs—and the cessation of attacks on health care and other vital infrastructure,” WHO stated.

After a surprise attack conducted on 7 October by Hamas on a number of southern Israeli towns which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,200 people and more than 220 being taken hostage by Hamas, Israel launched a retaliatory bombing campaign against what it describes as ‘terrorist targets’ in the Gaza Strip.

At least 12,500 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip — including at least 5,000 children — and over 32,000 others injured. Meanwhile, at least 183 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank and more than 2,700 injured. The death toll is no longer being regularly updated due to the collapse of the enclave’s health system.

The priority of the Egyptian government since the beginning of the conflict has been deescalation and the securing of a path for aid to enter the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing. Israel bombed the crossing at least six times, and limited aid trucks have crossed to Gaza so far, which UN officials warn is insufficient amid dire humanitarian conditions.

Most Western countries, with the United States at the forefront, have expressed unconditional support for Israel, despite the steadily rising death toll in Gaza. Meanwhile, the United Nations General Assembly has issued a resolution calling for a ceasefire.

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