Evacuation of Premature Infants Amidst Israeli Military Operations
A dire situation in the Gaza Strip as the largest hospital, Al-Shifa in Gaza City, is termed a “death zone” by the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) after being seized by Israeli troops four days ago. The escalating conflict has now led to the evacuation of 31 extremely fragile premature babies from the hospital.
Emergency medical teams from the Palestine Red Crescent Society and W.H.O. undertook the evacuation, transporting the infants by ambulance to the neonatal intensive care unit of a hospital in Rafah, located about 25 miles away in southern Gaza. Subsequently, officials in Gaza and Egypt have announced plans to transfer the babies to Egypt for further medical treatment, though specific timing details remain unclear.
The plight of these infants has become symbolic of the broader impact of Israel’s military campaign, drawing attention to what critics deem the recklessness of the assault and its severe consequences on the most vulnerable population. The military offensive was initiated in response to Hamas attacks on October 7, which Israel claims resulted in about 1,200 casualties in southern Israel.
Furthermore, over 200 individuals were reportedly seized as hostages during the attacks, and negotiations for their release, along with efforts to establish a ceasefire, are ongoing as of Sunday night.
Since the beginning of the conflict, more than 11,000 people have lost their lives in Gaza, including over 4,000 children, as reported by health officials in the Hamas-controlled territory.
The storming of Al-Shifa hospital last week marked a pivotal moment in the Israeli military’s efforts to expose what they allege is a Hamas military hub within the medical facility. Despite international criticism over the raid on a medical center, the Israeli military released new videos on Sunday, aiming to support their claim that the hospital was being utilized by Hamas for military purposes, including sheltering fighters, storing weapons, and planning attacks.
Videos released by the Israeli military showcase a 180-foot section of the tunnel running approximately 30 feet below the Al-Shifa complex. The footage, apparently recorded by a drone, displays parts of a metal spiral staircase and reveals a cloister-like tunnel with cables along one wall, leading to what Israel describes as a “blastproof door” with a firing hole. The military contends that such doors are used by Hamas to obstruct Israeli forces from entering command centers and underground assets.
Despite these assertions, both the Palestinian armed group and Al-Shifa officials have vehemently denied the presence of an underground command center at the hospital.
Additionally, Israel’s military released videos depicting two hostages, reportedly one Thai and one Nepali, being taken inside the hospital on October 7. The footage, seemingly captured by cameras mounted within the hospital, supports the military’s claim that Hamas used the hospital area as part of its military operations.
The complex situation in Gaza continues to unfold, raising concerns about the impact on civilians, particularly the most vulnerable. International organizations and observers are closely monitoring developments as efforts to negotiate a ceasefire persist in the midst of a complex and volatile conflict.