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Premature Gaza babies evacuated to Egypt; 12 reported killed at Indonesian Hospital

November 20, 2023 at 4:59 pm

Premature babies arrived in Egypt from the Gaza Strip on 20, November 2023 [Egyptian Health Ministry/Anadolu Agency]

A group of 28 prematurely born babies evacuated from Gaza’s biggest hospital were taken into Egypt for urgent treatment on Monday, while Palestinian authorities and the WHO said 12 people were killed at another Gaza hospital encircled by Israeli tanks.

The newborns had been in north Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital, where several others died after their incubators were knocked out amid a collapse of medical services during Israel’s military assault on Gaza City.

Israeli forces seized Shifa last week to search for what they said was a Hamas tunnel network built underneath. Hundreds of patients, medical staff and displaced people left Shifa at the weekend, with doctors saying they were ejected by troops, and Israel saying the departures were voluntary.

Live footage aired by Egypt’s Al Qahera TV showed medical staff carefully lifting infants from inside an ambulance and placing them in mobile incubators, which were then wheeled across a car park towards other ambulances.

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The babies were transported on Sunday to a hospital in Rafah, on the southern border of Gaza, so their condition could be stabilised ahead of transfer to Egypt.

All of the evacuated babies were “fighting serious infections”, a World Health Organisation (WHO) spokesperson said.

Eight infants have died since doctors at Shifa originally raised an international alarm this month about 39 premature babies at risk from a lack of infection control, clean water and medicines in the neo-natal ward.

12 dead in hospital ringed by Israeli tanks 

At the Indonesian Hospital, funded by Jakarta, Gaza’s Health Ministry said at least 12 Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded by firing into the complex encircled by Israeli tanks. Health officials said 700 patients, along with staff, were under Israeli fire.

The Palestinian news agency, WAFA, said the facility in the north-east Gaza town of Beit Lahia had been hit by artillery rounds. Hospital staff denied there were any armed militants on the premises.

World Health Organisation chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said he was “appalled” by the attack that he, too, said had killed 12 people, including patients, citing unspecified reports.

“Health workers and civilians should never have to be exposed to such horror, and especially while inside a hospital,” he said on social media platform X.

Indonesia condemned what it called Israel’s attack on the hospital, set up in 2016, saying it clearly violated international law.

The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), in response to a question about the hospital, said troops had fired back at fighters in the hospital while taking “numerous measures to minimise harm” to non-combatants.

“Overnight, terrorists opened fire from within the Indonesian Hospital in Gaza toward IDF troops operating outside the hospital,” the IDF told Reuters. “In response, IDF troops directly targeted the specific source of enemy fire. No shells were fired toward the hospital.”

Like all other health facilities in the northern half of Gaza, the Indonesian Hospital has largely ceased operations but is still sheltering patients, staff and displaced residents.

Israel has ordered the total evacuation of the north, but thousands of civilians remain. Food, fuel, medicines and drinking water have been running out across the enclave under Israel’s six-week-old siege.

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Medical charity, Medecins Sans Frontieres, said its clinic in Gaza City also came under fire on Monday. “Our colleagues saw that a wall was torn down and part of the building was engulfed by fire, as heavy fighting took place all around it. An Israeli tank was seen in the street,” it said on X.

In the south, where hundreds of thousands of Gazans who fled the north of the enclave are sheltering, at least 14 Palestinians were killed in two Israeli strikes on houses in Rafah, according to Gaza health authorities. There was no immediate Israeli comment on either incident.

Heavy fighting around major refugee camp 

Witnesses also reported bouts of heavy fighting between Hamas gunmen and Israeli forces trying to advance into north Gaza’s Jabalya refugee camp, home to 100,000 people and, according to Israel, a significant militant stronghold.

Repeated Israeli bombardment of Jabalya, an urban extension of Gaza City that grew out of a camp for Palestinian refugees from the 1948 Israeli-Arab war, has killed scores of civilians, Palestinian medics say.

The Israeli military issued a statement with video of air strikes and troops going house-to-house in Gaza, saying they killed three Hamas company commanders and a squad of Palestinian fighters, without giving specific locations.

Despite continued fighting, US and Israeli officials said a Qatari-mandated deal was edging closer to free some hostages and pause fighting temporarily to enable aid deliveries.

About 240 hostages were taken during a deadly cross-border rampage into Israel by Hamas on 7 October, which prompted Israel to invade the Palestinian Territory to target Hamas. About 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the Hamas assault, according to Israeli tallies, the deadliest day in Israel’s 75-year-old history.

Since then, Gaza’s government said at least 13,000 Palestinians have been killed, including at least 5,500 children, by unrelenting Israeli bombardment.

The United Nations says two thirds of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been made homeless.

Another 20,000 Gazans, including increasing numbers of unaccompanied children, journeyed from the north to south, mainly by donkey cart or bus or on foot, on Sunday, and some 900,000 displaced people are now in UN shelters, the UN Humanitarian Office (OCHA) said in an update on Monday.

Thousands more displaced people were sleeping against the walls of shelters in the south, out in the open, with an average of one shower for 700 people and one toilet for 150, OCHA said.

Israeli forces have seized wide areas of the north and north-west and east around Gaza City, the Israeli military says.

But Hamas and witnesses say militants are waging guerrilla-style warfare in the warrens of the congested north, including parts of Gaza City and the Jabalya and Beach refugee camps.

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