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World Health Organisation condemns Israel's evacuation orders to hospitals in northern Gaza

by Ben Cowles

ISRAEL’S evacuation orders to hospitals in northern Gaza are a death sentence for the sick and injured, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned at the weekend.

The Israeli military ordered 22 hospitals’ staff and patients in the northern half of the strip to head south as it continued to lay waste to entire neighbourhoods and its soldiers gathered at the border in what appears to be preparation for a land invasion.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have fled to southern Gaza after the Israeli government ordered them to do so. But many are afraid to flee after the Israeli military bombed a convoy heading south, killing about 70 people, including children, on Friday.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees estimates that a million people have been displaced in Gaza in a single week.

According to Gaza’s health ministry, over 2,300 people, including almost 500 children, have been killed by Israel’s bombing, which began after Hamas’s horrific attack on Israeli citizens last week.

Health workers in northern Gaza warned today that thousands of people could die as packed hospitals began to run out of fuel and supplies.

Last week, the Israeli government put Gaza under a “complete siege,” cutting off electricity, food, fuel and water.

Dr Hussam Abu Safiya, the head of pediatrics at the Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza, where seven newborns in the intensive care unit are on ventilators, told reporters today that the hospital would not abandon its patients despite the Israeli orders.

“We cannot evacuate: that would mean death for them and other patients under our care,” he said.

On Saturday, the WHO condemned Israel’s evacuation orders, warning that such a move would worsen the current humanitarian and public-health catastrophe in Gaza.

“Those in intensive care or who rely on life support; patients undergoing hemodialysis; newborns in incubators; women with complications of pregnancy and others all face imminent deterioration of their condition or death if they are forced to move and are cut off from life-saving medical attention while being evacuated.

“Forcing more than 2,000 patients to relocate to southern Gaza, where health facilities are already running at maximum capacity ... could be tantamount to a death sentence,” the WHO said in a statement.

“Hospital directors and health workers are now facing an agonising choice: abandon critically ill patients amid a bombing campaign, put their own lives at risk while remaining on site to treat patients or endanger their patients’ lives while attempting to transport them to facilities that have no capacity to receive them.”

Meanwhile, United States war ships have reportedly been deployed to the region, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to return to Israel on Monday after visiting Arab governments in an attempt to prevent a wider Middle East conflict.

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