The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, the largest medical facility in the region, a “zone of death” and called for its immediate evacuation. This announcement comes as the Israeli military confirms the expansion of its operations in the ongoing conflict with Hamas.
WHO revealed that it led an assessment mission to Al-Shifa Hospital in western Gaza City, which has become the focal point of military operations in the besieged territory. Israel accuses Hamas of using the hospital for military purposes, a claim denied by the movement.
Following an evacuation warning issued by the Israeli military on Saturday morning, hundreds of patients, medical staff, and displaced individuals left the hospital.
On the same day, the Health Ministry affiliated with Hamas reported the death of at least 80 people, including 32 from a single family, in an Israeli airstrike on the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza. The strike targeted a home and a school belonging to the United Nations.
The WHO stated that it led a joint team of UN experts in public health, logistics officials, and security personnel on a short and “highly dangerous” mission to Al-Shifa Hospital on Saturday. The team went to the hospital after the military ordered its evacuation. However, due to the security situation, the team spent only one hour inside the hospital, describing it as a “zone of death” and stating that the situation inside is “desperate.”
The organization confirmed that it is working with its partners to “develop urgent plans for the immediate evacuation of remaining patients, staff, and their families,” totaling 291 patients and 25 health workers.
The impact of airstrikes and gunfire was evident, with the team observing a mass grave at the hospital entrance, reportedly containing more than 80 individuals.
The WHO highlighted the severe shortages of clean water, fuel, medications, food, and other essential supplies over the past six weeks, causing the largest and most advanced hospitals in Gaza to cease operations. The hospital grounds were filled with medical and solid waste, increasing the risk of infection. Among the remaining patients, 32 children were described as being in “very critical” condition.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the WHO, expressed, “We are working with partners to develop an urgent evacuation plan and request full facilitation for this plan.” He continued to call for the protection of the health sector and civilians, expressing his regret that the current situation is “unbearable and unjustifiable” and urging an “immediate cessation of hostilities.”
The organization emphasized that additional missions will be sent “within the next 24 to 72 hours, pending safe passage guarantees” to assist in transferring patients to Nasser Medical Complex and the European Hospital in southern Gaza, even though these facilities are already operating beyond their capacity.
Al-Shifa Hospital became the focus of ground operations days ago when the Israeli military entered it, accusing Hamas of using it for military and leadership purposes—a claim denied by the movement.