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Patients, staff and displaced people leave Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza

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Patients, staff and displaced people leave Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza

Patients, staff and displaced people left Gaza’s largest hospital Saturday, health officials said, leaving behind only a skeleton crew to care for those too sick to move and Israeli forces in control of the facility.

The World Health Organization said that Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital is a “death zone,” and urged a full evacuation, reported Agence France-Presse.�

Israel’s military raided the sprawling Al-Shifa Hospital complex on Wednesday and have remained there to search it floor by floor, and room by room, for Hamas fighters and any evidence of what they say is an underground Hamas command center. U.S. officials said they also have evidence of a Hamas command center — something the military group and hospital staff deny.

Israel’s allegations that Hamas has embedded itself in civilian areas and at hospitals has been central to its justifications for the massive military campaign it launched after Hamas’ devastating Oct. 7 attack on Israel.�

On Saturday, the military said it had been asked by the hospital’s director to help those who would like to leave do so by a secure route. The military said it did not order any evacuation, and that medical personnel were being allowed to remain in the hospital to support patients who cannot be moved.

But Medhat Abbas, a spokesman for the Health Ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza, said the military had ordered the facility cleared, giving the hospital an hour to get people out.

Patients and medics are pictured at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Nov. 10, 2023.

AFP via Getty Images

After it appeared the evacuation was mostly complete, Dr. Ahmed Mokhallalati, a Shifa physician, said on social media that there were some 120 patients remaining who were unable to leave, including some in intensive care and premature babies, and that he and five other doctors were staying behind to care for them.

It was not immediately clear where those who left the hospital had gone, with 25 of Gaza’s hospitals non-functional due to lack of fuel, damage and other problems and the other 11 only partially operational, according to the World Health Operation.

The exodus from Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City came the same day internet and phone service was restored to the Gaza Strip, ending a telecommunications blackout that forced the United Nations to shut down critical humanitarian aid deliveries because it was unable to coordinate its convoys.

Israel continued to expand its offensive in Gaza City, with the military warning in a social media post in Arabic that residents of two neighborhoods in the east and north and the urban refugee camp of Jabaliya must evacuate for their safety. It said military activities would be paused briefly to allow them to leave. Earlier in the week, the Israeli defense minister had said troops had completed operations in the west of Gaza City.

CBS News taken inside Al-Shifa hospital with Israeli military

Attacks also continued in the south of the Gaza Strip, with an Israeli airstrike hitting a residential building on the outskirts of the town of Khan Younis, killing at least 26 Palestinians, according to a doctor at the hospital where the bodies were taken. Another 20 were wounded, said Dr. Nehad Taeima at Nasser Hospital.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during his weekly media address on Saturday evening that Israel is sending two fuel trucks a day to Gaza to prevent the outbreak of disease.

Israel rarely comments on individual strikes, saying only that it is targeting Hamas and trying to avoid harm to civilians. In many of the Israeli strikes, women and children have been among the dead.

Netanyahu said Thursday that Israel would make every effort to complete its operation in Gaza “with minimal civilian casualties.”

“That’s what we’re trying to do, minimum civilian casualties. But, unfortunately, we’re not successful,” Netanyahu told CBS Evening News’ Norah O’Donnell, blaming his military’s unsuccessful efforts squarely on Hamas, which he called a “theological, mad cult,” which he accused of deliberately trapping Palestinian civilians behind its fighters to use as human shields.

Most of Gaza’s population is now sheltering in the south, including hundreds of thousands of people who heeded Israel’s calls to evacuate Gaza City and the north to get out of the way of its ground offensive.

President Biden, in an op-ed Saturday in the Washington Post, called for a two-state solution, writing that “the international community must commit resources to support the people of Gaza in the immediate aftermath of this crisis, including interim security measures, and establish a reconstruction mechanism to sustainably meet Gaza’s long-term needs. And it is imperative that no terrorist threats ever again emanate from Gaza or the West Bank.”

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