Confusion as columns flee on foot from Gaza’s largest hospital

Staff and patients are reportedly leaving al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, with pictures showing columns of Palestinians fleeing on foot, some waving white flags.

Staff and patients are reportedly leaving al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, with pictures showing columns of Palestinians fleeing on foot, some waving white flags. Photo: AAP

Staff and patients are reportedly leaving al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, with pictures showing columns of Palestinians fleeing on foot, some waving white flags.

The director of the hospital said the Israeli military had ordered an evacuation but the IDF denied this, saying it helped people leave after the director requested it, reported BBC.

Palestinian officials accused the Israeli army of forcibly relocating most staff, patients and displaced people from Gaza’s largest hospital in the north and abandoning them to perilous journeys southwards on foot.

Israeli forces, which seized Al Shifa hospital in their offensive across north Gaza earlier this week, saying it concealed an underground Hamas command centre, denied the accusation and said all relocations were voluntary.

Meanwhile the head of the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) said on Saturday it had received “horrifying” images and footage of scores of people killed and wounded in an attack on an UNRWA school in the Israeli-occupied north.

“These attacks cannot become commonplace, they must stop. A humanitarian ceasefire cannot wait any longer,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said on social media platform X.

Israel’s military did not immediately comment and Reuters was unable to reach Gaza health officials for comment.

Death toll

Gaza health authorities raised their death toll on Friday to more than 12,000, including 5000 children.

The UN deems those figures credible although they are now updated only infrequently as war devastation has hampered communications.

An Israeli offensive into south Gaza could compel hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled the Israeli storming of Gaza City in the north to uproot again, along with residents of Khan Younis, a city of more than 400,000, compounding a dire humanitarian crisis.

Southern escalation

Israeli air strikes on residential blocks in south Gaza have killed at least 47 Palestinians, medics say, after Israel again warned civilians to relocate as it girds for an onslaught against Hamas in the enclave’s south after subduing the north.

Israel vowed to annihilate the Hamas militant group that controls the tiny coastal enclave after its October 7 rampage into Israel in which its fighters killed 1200 people and dragged 240 hostages into the enclave, according to Israeli tallies.

Overnight on Saturday, 26 Palestinians were killed and 23 wounded by an air strike on two apartments in a multi-storey block in a busy residential district of Khan Younis, according to health officials.

Eyad Al-Zaeem told Reuters he lost his aunt, her children and her grandchildren in the air strike in Khan Younis, and that all had left north Gaza on Israeli army orders only to die where the army told them they could be safe.

“All of them were martyred. They had nothing to do with the (Hamas) resistance,” Zaeem said, standing outside the morgue at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis where 26 bodies were laid out before they were to be carried by loved ones to burials.

A few kilometres to the north, six Palestinians were killed when a house was bombed from the air in the town of Deir Al-Balah, according to health authorities.

A third Israeli air strike on Saturday afternoon killed 15 Palestinians in a house west of Khan Younis, close to a shelter for displaced people, witnesses and medics said.

Israel says Hamas typically conceals fighters and weaponry in residential and other civilian buildings, which Hamas denies.

An Israeli military statement said only that over the past 24 hours its air force hit dozens of Gaza targets including militants, command centres, rocket launch sites and munitions factories.

A senior aide to Israel’s prime minister urged Palestinian civilians on Friday to relocate away from Khan Younis as Israeli forces would have to advance into the city to oust Hamas fighters dug into underground tunnels and bunkers – suggesting an Israeli ground offensive into the south was imminent.

The pending Israeli advance into south Gaza may prove more complicated and deadlier than in the north, however, with the civilian population swelled by 400,000 evacuees and fiercer fighting expected with militants dug into the Khan Younis region, a senior Israeli source and two ex-top officials said.


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