Health workers in Gaza are facing difficulties in evacuating patients from some of the biggest hospitals in the enclave, despite assurances from the Israeli military that they would allow the wounded and sick to leave, according to doctors.
The Israeli army has imposed a tight blockade on Gaza since October 7, when it launched a massive offensive against Hamas, the Palestinian armed group that controls the territory. The blockade has prevented the entry of fuel, food, medicine and other essential supplies, as well as the exit of patients who need urgent medical care outside Gaza.
The Israeli military said it had opened a humanitarian corridor in the south of Gaza, where it would allow ambulances to transport patients to the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. It said it had coordinated with the Egyptian authorities and the World Health Organization (WHO) to facilitate the evacuation.
However, doctors in Gaza said that the process was slow, complicated and risky, and that many patients were still trapped in the hospitals. They said that they had to obtain permits from the Israeli military, the Egyptian government and the WHO for each patient, and that the permits were often delayed or denied.
They also said that the humanitarian corridor was not safe, as it was exposed to Israeli airstrikes and shelling. They said that several ambulances had been hit by Israeli fire, killing or injuring the drivers and the patients.
“We are trying our best to evacuate our patients, but we are facing many obstacles and dangers,” said Dr. Ayman al-Sahbani, the director of the emergency department at al-Shifa Hospital, the largest hospital in Gaza. He said that al-Shifa had more than 500 patients who needed to be transferred to other hospitals, either in Gaza or outside.
He said that al-Shifa was running out of space, equipment and staff, as it was overwhelmed by the influx of casualties from the war. He said that the hospital had received more than 3,000 wounded and 1,500 dead since the start of the conflict.
He also said that the hospital was suffering from frequent power cuts, water shortages and lack of sanitation, which posed a serious threat to the health and safety of the patients and the staff.
“We are working in very difficult and dangerous conditions. We are afraid that the hospital could be targeted by the Israeli army at any moment,” he said.
The Israeli military has denied targeting hospitals or ambulances, and said that it was only striking Hamas’ military infrastructure and personnel. It also said that it was allowing the entry of humanitarian aid and fuel into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing, which it had reopened after a temporary closure.
The war between Israel and Hamas has killed more than 12,000 Palestinians and 1200 Israelis so far, according to health officials. The UN has said that more than half of Gaza’s population lacks access to basic services and humanitarian aid.
The international community has urged both sides to de-escalate the situation and resume negotiations for a lasting peace. However, both Israel and Hamas have rejected any calls for a ceasefire without meeting their conditions.
Israel has demanded that Hamas stop firing rockets and disarm completely. Hamas has demanded that Israel end its blockade of Gaza and its occupation of East Jerusalem.