Gaza hospital evacuations could be tantamount to death sentence: WHO

The United Nations health organization has once again condemned Israel’s order to evacuate 22 hospitals treating more than 2,000 inpatients in northern Gaza, describing it as a death sentence against Gazans.

“Forcing more than 2,000 patients to relocate to southern Gaza, where health facilities are already running at maximum capacity and unable to absorb a dramatic rise in the number of patients, could be tantamount to a death sentence,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement.

“Hospital directors and health workers are now facing an agonizing 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,” the WHO said on Saturday.

Medical officials say tens of thousands of Palestinians are sheltering in a hospital in Gaza City after Israel told Palestinians to evacuate and head further south in the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s military on Thursday ordered 1.1 million Palestinians trapped in Gaza to move south within 24 hours ahead of an expected ground offensive on the enclave.

The health ministry in Gaza will not leave its hospitals “even if they are demolished over our heads”, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Ministry of Health said in a statement Saturday.

The ministry was responding to the Israel Defense Forces’ warning to some 1.1 million northern Gaza residents to evacuate as it prepares to ramp up its offensive against Hamas.

“We will not respond to Israeli threats to evacuate hospitals, and our moral stance requires us to continue our work,” ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qidra stated.

Al-Qidra added the ministry demands the opening of a safe passage to let patients and the wounded out of the Gaza Strip, and to let aid, medical supplies and fuel in.

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