Gaza City Hospitals Forced to Shut Down Amid Bombings and Evacuation Order

Healthcare officials were joined by human rights experts on Tuesday in condemning Israel’s latest evacuation orders for Gaza City, which the World Health Organization director said would “further impede delivery of very limited lifesaving care” as hospitals in the area struggled to treat sick and wounded Palestinians.

The Israel Defense Forces claimed on Tuesday morning that there was “no need to evacuate the hospitals and medical facilities in the area,” after it had issued an evacuation order for 70% of Gaza City on Monday. The IDF has ordered civilians to evacuate parts of the city three times since June 27 as it has intensified its military operations, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee.

Despite the IDF’s claims, the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, which partially operates al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City, said it had closed and evacuated all patients and workers after a series of drone strikes in the facility’s “immediate vicinity.”

“To our great dismay, our hospital is now out of operation at a time when its services are in very significant demand and where injured and sick people have few other options for places to receive urgent medical care,” said the diocese in a statement.

Healthcare authorities have been forced to transport patients to other hospitals that are also struggling to provide care, as Israel’s near-total blockade on humanitarian aid since October has caused dire shortages of fuel and medical supplies.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director of the World Health Organization, said Patient’s Friends Benevolent Society Hospital in Gaza City was also out of service due to the evacuation order, putting more strain on other facilities in the northern city of Beit Lahia, including Kamal Adwan and Indonesian hospitals.

Those medical centers are “suffering shortage of fuel, beds, and trauma medical supplies,” said Tedros on social media. “Indonesian Hospital is triple over its capacity. Al-Helou Hospital is within the blocks of the evacuation order but continues to be partially functional. As-Sahaba and al-Shifa hospitals are in close proximity to the areas under evacuation order but remain functional so far. Six medical points and two primary healthcare centers are also within the evacuation zones.”

“These key hospitals and medical facilities could quickly become nonfunctional due to hostilities in their vicinity or obstruction to access,” he added before repeating a demand: “Cease-fire!”

Israel’s claim that the hospitals in Gaza City remain safe despite the evacuation orders comes after several Israeli bombings of medical facilities and other so-called “humanitarian areas” since October.

Hospitals including al-Shifa in Gaza City have become major targets of Israel’s assault on the enclave, prompting outcry from human rights advocates who have demanded that the IDF follow international humanitarian law.

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Tuesday said it was “appalled” by the IDF’s latest evacuation order, noting that Palestinians have been killed after fleeing to supposedly “safe” zones since Israel’s bombardment began.

Many of the people fleeing Gaza City this week “have been forcibly displaced multiple times, to evacuate to areas where IDF military operations are ongoing and where civilians continue to be killed and injured,” said the OHCHR.

Deir al-Balah, where Gaza City residents have been told to move in the latest order, “is already seriously overcrowded with Palestinians displaced from other areas of the Gaza Strip,” the office added.

The Gaza Health Ministry reports that 38,243 people have been killed in the enclave since Israel began its attacks in retaliation for a Hamas-led attack on October 7.

As Israel forced hospitals in Gaza City out of operation and occupied the southern part of the city, including around the headquarters of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, another Israeli attack on the Bureij refugee camp killed nine people on Tuesday, including five children.

The IDF also said its warplanes had attacked “a school complex” in the Nuseirat refugee camp.

“There’s really no safe corner in Gaza,” said Tedros.