Patients and staff leave Gaza’s biggest hospital, and dozens are killed at a crowded refugee camp
KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip (AP) — Patients, staff and displaced people left Gaza’s largest hospital Saturday, with one describing a panicked and chaotic evacuation as Israeli forces searched and face-scanned men among the evacuees and took some away.
Israel’s military has been searching Shifa Hospital in Gaza City for traces of a Hamas command centre that it alleges was located under the building — a claim Hamas and the hospital staff deny. The evacuation, which Israel says was voluntary, left behind only Israeli forces and a skeleton crew of health workers to care for those too sick to move.
“We left at gunpoint,” Mahmoud Abu Auf told The Associated Press by phone after he and his family left the crowded hospital. “Tanks and snipers were everywhere inside and outside.” He said he saw Israeli forces detain three men.
The evacuation came the same day internet and phone service was restored to the Gaza Strip, ending a telecommunications outage that forced the United Nations to shut down critical aid deliveries.
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 UN shelter in the main combat zone. It caused massive destruction in the camp’s Fakhoura school, said wounded survivors Ahmed Radwan and Yassin Sharif.
“The scenes were horrifying. Corpses of women and children were on the ground. Others were screaming for help,” Radwan said by phone. Associated Press photos from a local hospital showed more than 20 bodies wrapped in bloodstained sheets.
The Israeli military, which had warned Jabaliya residents and others in a social media post in Arabic to leave, said only that its troops were active in the Jabaliya area “with the aim of hitting terrorists.” It rarely comments on individual strikes, saying only that it targets Hamas while trying to minimise civilian harm.
“Receiving horrifying images & footage of scores of people killed and injured in another UNRWA school sheltering thousands of displaced,” Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner general of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, or UNRWA, said on X, formerly Twitter, pleading for a humanitarian cease-fire.
“Civilians cannot and should not have to bear this any longer,” UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said on X.
Attacks also continued in southern Gaza. An Israeli airstrike hit 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.
On Saturday, the military said it had been asked by the Shifa hospital’s director to help those who would like to leave do so by a secure route.
Israel’s military said it did not order any evacuation. 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.
A Shifa physician, Ahmed Mokhallalati, said on social media that about 120 patients remained, including some in intensive care and premature babies, and that he and five other doctors were staying.
It was not clear where those who left the hospital had gone, with 25 of Gaza’s hospitals non-functioning due to lack of fuel, damage and other problems, and the other 11 only partially operational, according to the World Health Organization.
Israel has said hospitals in northern Gaza were a key target of its ground offensive aimed at crushing Hamas, claiming they were used as militant command centres and weapons depots, which both Hamas and medical staff deny. Israeli troops have encircled or entered several hospitals.
The war, now in its seventh week, was triggered by Hamas’ October 7 attack in southern Israel, in which militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted some 240 men, women and children. Fifty-two soldiers have been killed since the Israeli offensive began.
More than 11,500 Palestinians have been killed in the war, according to Palestinian health authorities. Another 2,700 have been reported missing, believed buried under rubble. The count does not differentiate between civilians and combatants, but more than two-thirds of those killed were women and children; Israel says it has killed thousands of militants.