Patients, staff, and displaced individuals hastily evacuated Gaza’s largest hospital, Shifa Hospital, on Saturday, amid Israeli forces’ search for a Hamas command center allegedly located beneath the facility. The evacuation, deemed voluntary by Israel, resulted in a chaotic scene, leaving only a skeletal medical staff behind to care for the immobile.
Mahmoud Abu Auf, who left the hospital with his family, described the evacuation as being done “at gunpoint,” with Israeli forces conducting face scans and detaining some men among the evacuees. “Tanks and snipers were everywhere inside and outside,” he added. Shifa Hospital’s director, Medhat Abbas, claimed that the military ordered the facility cleared, giving the hospital only an hour to evacuate.
The Israeli military contends that hospitals in northern Gaza, including Shifa, were targets in its ground offensive against Hamas, alleging their use as militant command centers and weapons depots. Health officials, including Abbas, and hospital staff deny these claims.
In Jabaliya refugee camp, witnesses reported dozens killed in what appeared to be an Israeli airstrike on a crowded U.N. shelter in the main combat zone, causing massive destruction in the Fakhoura school. Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner General of UNRWA, expressed concern, stating, “Civilians cannot and should not have to bear this any longer.”
Meanwhile, southern Gaza saw continued attacks, including an Israeli airstrike in Khan Younis that hit a residential building, resulting in at least 26 Palestinian casualties. The Israeli military stated its troops were active in the area “with the aim of hitting terrorists.”
The Gaza Strip’s telecommunications outage, recently restored, had forced the United Nations to halt critical aid deliveries. “Receiving horrifying images & footage of scores of people killed and injured,” tweeted Lazzarini, pleading for a humanitarian ceasefire.
The ongoing conflict, now in its seventh week, was triggered by Hamas’ attack in southern Israel on October 7, resulting in civilian casualties and abductions. Over 11,500 Palestinians have been reported killed, with more than 2,700 missing and believed buried under rubble.
Gaza’s main power plant shutdown early in the conflict, exacerbating critical shortages of food, water, and medical supplies. The U.N. warned of a humanitarian crisis, with Gaza’s 2.3 million people running critically short of essentials.