1 of 5 | Palestinian medics care for babies evacuated from Al Shifa hospital to the Emirates hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on Sunday, November 19, 2023. A top health official in Gaza Strip said all 31 premature babies at Al-Shifa hospital had been evacuated on November 19 from the facility that the World Health Organization now calls a "death zone". Photo by Ismail Muhammad/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 19 (UPI) -- The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said Sunday that it had evacuated 31 premature babies from the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza for transport to the Emirates Hospital in Rafah.
The evacuation came after Israel Defense Forces raided the hospital, alleging with little it was being used as a command center by Hamas, the Palestinian militia considered by Israel to be a terrorist organization. The IDF has not yet shown evidence of an extensive tunnel network it claims is beneath the hospital.
The Red Crescent said in a statement the evacuation was made in coordination with the World Health Organization and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Twitter that the mission was made "under extremely intense and high-risk security conditions" and that six health workers and ten staff family members were also evacuated.
"Further missions are being planned to urgently transport remaining patients and health staff out of Al-Shifa Hospital, pending guarantees of safe passage by parties to the conflict," Ghebreyesus said.
"We're deeply moved and impressed by the extraordinary bravery and service of the health workers in Gaza, who continue to serve under the most dire and difficult circumstances."
Workers with the WHO called the hospital a "death zone" in a separate statement about the "desperate" situation, where signs of shelling and gunfire were evident.
"The team saw a mass grave at the entrance of the hospital and was told more than 80 people were buried there," the statement reads.
"Lack of clean water, fuel, medicines, food and other essential aid over the last 6 weeks have caused Al-Shifa Hospital -- once the largest, most advanced and best-equipped referral hospital in Gaza --- to essentially stop functioning as a medical facility."
Meanwhile, OCHA said in a statement late Saturday that the Israel is continuing its operations in the hospital, which is no longer functional. Just 25 health workers and 291 patients remained at the hospital as of Saturday night.
The agency said Israel targeted three schools where people had been sheltering in the past 24 hours, condemning Israel for its actions.
The Ministry of Health in Gaza has not updated its death tolls since Nov. 10, when 11,078 - including 4,506 children - were reported to have been killed. And according to the Palestine Journalists Syndicate in Gaza, 45 Palestinian journalists have been killed since Oct. 7, when the conflict between Israel and Hamas escalated.