Israel offers Gaza hospital evacuation for babies but fighting rages on

Israel’s army said it was ready to evacuate babies from Gaza’s largest hospital on Sunday, but Palestinian officials said people inside were still trapped, with two newborns dead and dozens at risk from a power outage amid intense fighting nearby, Reuters reports.

Al-Shifa and other hospitals in northern Gaza, the focus of Israel’s month-old war to wipe out Hamas and free hostages held by the militants, were barely able to care for patients. More people are wounded daily by fierce Israeli bombardment.

Speaking from inside the biggest hospital, Al-Shifa, Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra told Reuters Israeli fire had not hit it directly overnight but was “terrorising medical officials and civilians alike”.

Israel’s chief military spokesperson, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said on Saturday Israel’s military would help evacuate babies from the hospital at the request of staff there. Al-Qidra had said there were 45 babies in total and two had already died.

Asked about the evacuations, Al-Qidra said: “We have not been informed about any mechanism to get the babies out to a safer hospital. So far we are praying for their safety and not to lose more of them.”

Israel says people can safely evacuate hospitals in north Gaza

Hospital staff say there is no safe way out

Air strike kills 13 in south Gaza house, Palestinian officials say

In the Indonesian Hospital in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, Mosab Subeih, a baby boy had been rushed in from a house that was struck by an Israeli missile.

“He has a direct injury to the head and bleeding, and we have no surgeries,” said one of the medics, who were treating him with a manual resuscitator as power had been cut.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said medical staff at another hospital in northern Gaza, Al-Quds, were struggling to care for those there with little medicine, food and water.

“Al Quds hospital has been cut off from the world in the last 6-7 days. No way in, no way out,” Tommaso Della Longa, spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told Reuters.

Shifa was also out of reach for the newly wounded, said Mohammad Qandil, a doctor at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, who is in touch with colleagues there.

“Shifa hospital now isn’t working, no one is allowed in, nobody is allowed out, and if you are wounded or injured around Gaza area you can’t be evacuated by our ambulance to Shifa hospital, so Shifa hospital now is out of service,” he told Reuters.

On Sunday, Israel said people could safely evacuate from three hospitals in northern Gaza, including Shifa via one of its exits. Hospital director Mohammad Abu Selmeyah told Al Arabiya television that there was no safe passage out.

CROSSING TO OPEN

As the humanitarian situation across Gaza worsened, its border authority said the Rafah crossing into Egypt would reopen on Sunday for foreign passport holders.

Very little aid has entered Gaza since Israel declared war on Hamas more than a month ago after militants rampaged through southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people and taking more than 200 hostage, according to Israeli officials.

Palestinian officials said on Friday that 11,078 Gaza residents had been killed in air and artillery strikes since then, around 40% of them children.

Disease is spreading amid evacuees packed into schools and other shelters and surviving on tiny amounts of food and water, international aid agencies say.

Some countries have taken to delivering aid by parachute; Jordan said it had air-dropped a second batch into a field hospital early on Sunday.

Hamas said it had completely or partially destroyed more than 160 Israeli military targets in Gaza, including more than 27 tanks and vehicles in the past 48 hours. An Israeli military spokesperson said Hamas had lost control of northern Gaza.

At a news conference late on Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the deaths of five more Israeli soldiers in Gaza. The Israeli military said 46 had been killed since its ground operations there began.

ISRAEL RENEWS EVACUATION CALLS

Residents said there was increased fighting around Al-Shati refugee camp, by the coast in northern Gaza. The Israeli military said it had killed a number of militants there and called on civilians to use a four-hour pause to evacuate south.

Speaking from inside Gaza City, Jamila, 54, said she and her family could hear the roar of tanks operating in streets 700 metres (yards) away.

“During the day, people try to look for essential items such as bread and water, and at night people try to stay alive,” she said by phone.

“We hear explosions throughout the night, sometimes we can tell that some of these explosions are exchanges of fire between the resistance fighters and the Israeli forces.”

The mother of six said her family was scared to leave.

“We hear lots of bombings in the south, and there is no food. Things there don’t seem different from our situation here,” she said.

Palestinian health officials said 13 people had been killed in an Israeli air strike on a house in Khan Younis on Sunday.

REPORTS OF POSSIBLE HOSTAGE DEAL

Israel has said doctors, patients and thousands of evacuees who have taken refuge at hospitals in northern Gaza must leave so it can destroy what it says are Hamas command centres under and around them. Hamas denies using hospitals this way.

Al Shifa staff told Reuters there had been continuous bombardment for more than 24 hours. Most hospital staff and people sheltering there had left, but 500 patients remained.

The World Health Organisation expressed “grave concern” for the safety of everyone trapped there by the fighting and said it had lost communications with its contacts in the hospital.

Israel’s three major TV news channels said on Saturday there was some progress toward a deal to free hostages held by Hamas in Gaza but there was little sign of one on Sunday. They did not cite any named sources and there was no public comment from Hamas or Israel on the reports.

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