KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip (AP) — A United Nations team said Sunday that 291 patients were left at Gaza’s largest hospital after Israeli troops had others evacuate. Those left included 32 babies in extremely critical condition, trauma patients with severely infected wounds, and others with spinal injuries who are unable to move.
The team was able to tour Shifa Hospital for an hour after about 2,500 displaced people, mobile patients and medical staff left the sprawling compound Saturday morning, said the World Health Organization, which led the mission. It said 25 medical staff remained, along with the patients.
“Patients and health staff with whom they spoke were terrified for their safety and health, and pleaded for evacuation,” the agency said, describing Shifa as a death zone. It said more teams will attempt to reach Shifa in coming days to try to the evacuate patients to southern Gaza, where hospitals are also overwhelmed.
Israel has long alleged that Hamas maintains a sprawling command post inside and under Shifa. It has portrayed the hospital as a key target in its war to end the militants’ rule in Gaza following their wide-ranging attack into southern Israel six weeks ago, which triggered the war.
Hamas and hospital staff deny the allegations. Israeli troops who have been based at the hospital and searching its grounds for days say they have found guns and other weapons, and showed reporters the entrance to a tunnel shaft. The AP couldn’t independently verify Israel’s findings.
Saturday’s mass departure was portrayed by Israel as voluntary, but the WHO said the military had issued evacuation orders, and some of those who left described it as a forced exodus.
“We left at gunpoint,” Mahmoud Abu Auf told The Associated Press by phone after he and his family left the crowded hospital. He said he saw Israeli troops detain three men.
STRIKES IN THE NORTH AND SOUTH
Elsewhere in northern Gaza, dozens of people were killed in the urban Jabaliya refugee camp when what witnesses described as an Israeli airstrike hit a crowded U.N. shelter Saturday.
“The scenes were horrifying. Corpses of women and children were on the ground. Others were screaming for help,” Radwan said by phone. AP photos from a local hospital showed more than 20 bodies wrapped in bloodstained sheets.
The Israeli military, which has repeatedly called on Palestinians to leave northern Gaza, said only that its troops were active in the area “with the aim of hitting terrorists.” It rarely comments on individual strikes, saying only that it targets Hamas while trying to minimize civilian harm.
Heavy clashes were reported in the Jabaliya camp overnight into Sunday. “There was the constant sound of fire, gunfire and tank shelling,” Yassin Sharif, who is sheltering in a U.N.-run hospital in the camp, said by phone. “It was another night of horror.”
In southern Gaza, an Israeli airstrike hit a residential building near the town of Khan Younis on Saturday, killing at least 26 Palestinians, according to a doctor at the hospital where the bodies were taken.
Doctors Without Borders, an international…