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‘Impossible’: Panic as Israel orders Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital to evacuate

Israeli army denies it forced anyone to leave the hospital it has besieged for days.

Israeli forces ordered doctors, patients and displaced people at Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital to evacuate the medical compound, giving them an hour to do so and forcing some to leave by gunpoint, medical sources inside the facility have told Al Jazeera.

But in a post on X on Saturday, the Israeli army denied it forced anyone to leave, saying the IDF “acceded to the request of the director of the Shifa Hospital to enable additional Gazans who were in the hospital, and would like to evacuate, to do so via the secure route”.

Mohammed Zaqout, the director-general of hospitals in Gaza, reiterated to Al Jazeera: “I categorically deny these false allegations [from the Israeli army] … I am telling you we were forced to leave by gunpoint.”

There are more than 7,000 people, including patients in critical condition and newborn babies fighting for their lives, inside al-Shifa. The facility has been under siege by Israeli soldiers for several days.

Earlier, a doctor in al-Shifa told Al Jazeera it was “impossible” to evacuate everyone.

The situation caused “a great state of panic and fear” in the hospital, Al Jazeera’s Youmna ElSayed said, reporting from Khan Younis in southern Gaza. “They do not have any ambulances to transfer the patients and premature babies to the south [of Gaza].”

Those in al-Shifa include at least 300 patients, some or most of them in serious or critical condition, as well as thousands of displaced families.

It also includes “at least 35 premature babies who already for eight days now have been out of their incubators because of the lack of oxygen and the lack of electricity”, ElSayed said. There were 39 babies who had been left without incubators; four died late on Friday and five are severely ill now, our correspondent added.

“There is no transportation means in Gaza City and the northern parts because of a lack of fuel. So people are expected to evacuate on foot. And doctors are telling us it’s impossible to evacuate with this many people on foot.” She added that doctors also did not want to abandon their patients.


After the Israeli army’s “one hour” deadline passed on Saturday morning, Omar Zaqout, the hospital’s supervisor, told Al Jazeera that forced evacuations had begun and added that the scenes outside the facility were “appalling”.

“We were told to leave through al-Wehda road. Dozens of dead bodies are scattered on the road,” he said. “Many homeless people who cannot walk are left out in the open.”

Munir al-Barsh, a doctor at al-Shifa Hospital, said that the Israeli army called at about 9am [7:00 GMT], warning that all those leaving had to wave a white handkerchief and walk in a single line.

“They were humiliated by soldiers all along the road,” al-Barsh told Al Jazeera.

“Many of the patients were put on wheelchairs or rolling beds. Family members were forced to carry their wounded children or parents themselves … These are horrible, unprecedented scenes,” he said.

Doctors said the Israeli army instructed people to evacuate through al-Rashid street, not the usual street or route that people evacuating to the south are supposed to take — the Salah al-Din street.

ElSayed said the army had not provided people evacuating with any means of transportation, with any fuel for ambulances or for any cars to transfer patients, premature babies and displaced families.

The hospital has also been without food, water, electricity and oxygen for at least a week, while Israeli troops and tanks raided the facility over the last couple of days. Israel claimed Hamas has a command centre underneath the hospital, but found no evidence to support its claim. Hamas and hospital staff have always rejected the Israeli assertions.

Zaqout added that the lack of water supply at al-Shifa has led to what he called an “absence of hygiene and cleanliness”.

“The electrical power has been out more than three weeks. Infants and newborn babies are left without oxygen. It is nothing but a medieval cave,” he said.

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