Hundreds flee as Israel orders Gaza’s main hospital evacuated

Palestinians inspect the damage to a building after an Israeli strike on Hamad City in Khan Yunis on November 18, 2023. – The director of the Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis said it had received the bodies of 26 people, as well as 23 people with serious injuries, after an air strike on a residential building in the southern region’s Hamad city. (Photo by Mahmud HAMS / AFP)

Hundreds of people fled on foot Saturday after Israel’s army ordered the evacuation of Gaza’s main hospital where more than 2,000 patients, medics and displaced people were trapped by the war between Israel and Hamas.

An AFP journalist witnessed the movement, on a road leading south, but health officials in the Hamas-ruled territory said 450 patients unable to be moved remained at Al-Shifa hospital. The facility has become the focus of the war that is entering its seventh week after Hamas’s October 7 attacks on southern Israel.

Israel has been pressing military operations inside the hospital, searching for the Hamas operations centre it says lies under the sprawling complex — a charge Hamas denies.Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas in response to the October 7 attacks which Israeli officials say killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and saw about 240 people taken hostage. The army’s air and ground campaign has since killed 12,000 people, including 5,000 children, according to the Hamas government which has ruled Gaza since 2007.

In Gaza City on Saturday morning, Israeli troops ordered over loudspeakers the evacuation of the Al-Shifa hospital “in the next hour”, an AFP journalist at the scene reported. They called the hospital’s director, Mohammed Abu Salmiya, to instruct him to ensure “the evacuation of patients, wounded, the displaced and medical staff, and that they should move on foot towards the seafront”, he told AFP.


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