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Hospitals in Northern Gaza Call Israel’s Evacuation Order an “Impossible” Task

Moving patients in critical care out of the region means risking their lives, hospital administrators say.

Ambulances carrying victims of Israeli strikes crowd the entrance to the emergency ward of the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on October 15, 2023.

Hospitals, doctors and international organizations are decrying Israel’s order that hospitals in northern Gaza evacuate their patients as a ground-based Israeli military operation seems imminent in the region.

Israel’s demand for more than 1 million Palestinians to flee southward is essentially a death sentence for the most vulnerable in these facilities, doctors are saying, including infants and those in critical care.

“It’s absolutely impossible to evacuate the hospital,” Muhammad Abu Salima, director of Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, told The New York Times. “There is nowhere in Gaza that can accept the number of patients in our intensive care unit or neonatal intensive care unit or even the operating rooms.”

At that hospital alone, there are around 200 patients receiving dialysis treatments, 70 people on ventilators, and a high number of newborn babies currently in incubators. Transporting these patients to hospitals in southern Gaza, where conditions are dire due to the influx of patients critically wounded by Israeli airstrikes, is simply not feasible — particularly given that Israel has bombed and destroyed at least 15 ambulances in Gaza since October 7.

“Emergency, trauma and surgical supplies are rapidly running out at hospitals and health partners’ warehouses, with the entry of humanitarian supplies still not possible. … There is a shortage of blood. Medicine is in short supply,” Aseel Baidoun, advocacy and campaigns manager of Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), told Al Jazeera.

“The situation in Gaza is catastrophic,” Léo Cans, Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders head of mission in Palestine, said last week. “The hospitals are overwhelmed. The number of wounded is extremely high, with a constant influx of patients in all the hospitals in the Gaza Strip. Medical teams are exhausted, working around the clock to treat the wounded.”

Compounding the devastation is the fact that Israel is blocking aid from entering the territory — a tactic that many human rights advocates have pointed out is both genocidal and a war crime. The World Health Organization (WHO) has condemned Israel’s refusal to allow food, water, medical supplies and electricity into Gaza, saying that the siege “may amount to a violation of international humanitarian law.”

Since Israel began its indiscriminate bombing campaign against Palestinians in Gaza in response to the Hamas attacks on Israelis, there has “been little to no aid distribution in Gaza,” The New York Times reported, as well as limited access to necessities like drinking water. Due to this deprivation, people in Gaza have resorted to drinking polluted water to survive.

The Gaza strip is one of the most densely populated places on Earth, and nearly half of its population are children. As of October 13, nearly 600 children in Palestine have been killed by Israeli airstrikes, making up one-third of the total death count.

Israel’s ongoing airstrike campaign, which has leveled residential neighborhoods and wiped entire families off the population registry, has killed 2,750 Palestinians and wounded at least 9,700 as of Monday, a number that is expected to dramatically increase in the coming days, especially if a ground assault by Israel moves forward.

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