In a troubling development, a United Nations (UN) team revealed on Sunday that 291 patients, including 32 critically ill infants, remain at Gaza's largest hospital, Shifa, following evacuations ordered by Israeli troops. The World Health Organization (WHO) led a mission to assess the situation, describing Shifa Hospital as a 'death zone.' Simultaneously, Israel expanded its operations in Gaza City, hinting at a broader offensive as the conflict enters its seventh week, as reported by AP.
The evacuation of Shifa Hospital, involving approximately 2,500 displaced people, mobile patients, and medical staff on Saturday, was initially portrayed by Israel as voluntary. However, the WHO contradicted this, stating that the military had issued evacuation orders, and some evacuees described it as a forced exodus.
The UN team, granted an hour to tour Shifa Hospital after the mass departure, reported that 25 medical staff remained alongside the patients, who expressed fear for their safety and health.
The situation in Gaza remains dire, with heavy clashes reported in the Jabaliya refugee camp and an Israeli airstrike hitting a residential building near Khan Younis, resulting in at least 26 Palestinian casualties.
As the conflict persists, international aid efforts face challenges. Doctors Without Borders reported that a convoy attempting to evacuate northern Gaza was attacked at a crowded Israeli checkpoint, resulting in the death of a staff member's family member.
The overall toll of the conflict is staggering, with over 11,500 Palestinians reported killed and 1,200 people on the Israeli side, mainly civilians, killed during Hamas' October 7 attack. The UN continues to provide basic services to the displaced population, but challenges persist as Israel's offensive shows signs of expanding.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statement that the Israeli military would have "full freedom" to operate within Gaza after the war adds complexity to the situation, particularly as the United States and Israel remain at odds over the future governance of the region.