8:07 a.m. ET, November 18, 2023
Six doctors defy evacuation order to care for 120 vulnerable patients at Al-Shifa hospital
Six doctors remain at Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital to attend to 120 patients who are unable to leave due to their critical health conditions, as reported by the facility’s Head of Plastic Surgery Ahmed El Mokhallalati on Saturday. This decision comes after other medical staff evacuated the hospital in response to an alleged order from the Israeli occupation army.
“We call on the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and World Health Organization (WHO) to take action to protect the medical staff and patients at Al-Shifa hospital,” Mokhallalati added.
The Israeli army earlier denied ordering the evacuation.
Hundreds of people left the hospital on foot, according to an AFP journalist at the scene. Their destination was unclear but many – including sick and injured patients, medical professionals and previously-displaced civilians – appeared to be making their way towards the seafront, AFP reported. CNN has been unable to confirm the number of people who have left the facility.
Evacuating a hospital in an active war zone is “an extremely complex and logistically challenging operation” and the team on the ground lacks fuel, vehicles, incubators and other medical resources, ICRC spokesperson Ala’a Nayel told CNN Saturday.
“It is heartbreaking to see the most vulnerable bear the brunt of the conflict,” Nayel said.
Some background: It’s not been confirmed what prompted the mass exodus Gaza’s largest hospital on Saturday morning. Thousands of displaced civilians had been sheltering at the medical complex in increasingly dire conditions.
The hospital became a battleground on Wednesday when Israeli troops raided the facility in an operation against Hamas. Israel claims the group has been operating an underground command center below the complex – an allegation which both Hamas and hospital officials have denied. CNN has been unable to verify the claims of either Israel or Hamas.
Earlier Saturday, conflicting accounts of the evacuation request for Al-Shifa emerged. Several doctors there said that they’d been ordered to leave by the Israeli military, with one saying the hospital director had received a phone call specifying that fleeing individuals should wave white fags or handkerchiefs as they departed. However, the Israeli military has disputed issuing such an order.