WHO Calls for Israel to Rescind Order to Evacuate Gaza’s Al Quds Hospital – Israel Says Hospital is Used by Hamas
Palestinians shelter in Al Quds Hospital in Gaza, which Israel has ordered to be evacuated.

The WHO and the International Red Cross both issued weekend appeals to Israel to rescind its evacuation order on Al Quds Hospital, a major  healthcare facility in the northern Gaza Strip.  Israel has said that Al Quds, along with Al Shifa Hospital, are both being used as command and control centers by Hamas militants. But the UN and Red Cross say that thousands of displaced people are sheltering in and around the complex, along with patients too ill to be moved.

In a flurry of statements over the weekend, UN agencies also echoed Friday’s calls by the UN General Assembly for a humanitarian ceasefire. On Monday, however, Israeli ground forces appeared to be advancing even more deeply into northern Gaza, including a thrust westward from central Gaza to the sea, a move that could potentially divide the narrow enclave into two.  

Internet services were blocked by Israel across most of Gaza on Sunday, leaving Palestinian civilians in confusion, and with signs of a breakdown in civil order while Israel’s air and ground raids continued. The services were gradually restored on Monday. Hamas kept up its missile fire on Israel, as well, including barrages targeting Tel Aviv, the Jerusalem region, and other major cities in the country’s center and south. 

Over 8,000 Gazans have now died in the fighting, said the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry, including over 3,000 children. Over 1 million Palestinians are displaced, including around 800,000 people who have fled south in line with an Israeli order for civilians to leave northern portions of the enclave. In Israel over 1,400 people have died, 200,000 are displaced and the number of hostages held by Hamas has been revised upwards to 244 people, including about 30 children, as well as women and elderly, Israel said.

On Monday, Hamas also released a video of three Israeli hostages calling for a prisoner swap and an end.

Reverse order against Al Quds Hospital

“Under International Humanitarian Law, healthcare must always be protected,” said WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a tweet appealing to Israel to rescind its evacuation order against Al Quds hospital.  

The International Federation of the Red Cross said: “We are deeply alarmed to hear that the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) teams at the Al Quds hospital have again this morning been told to immediately evacuate the hospital. 

“Hospitals are places of help and refuge; they must be protected at all cost.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross, in another statement on Monday, “The human suffering is shocking…even wars have limits. Thousands killed. People have limited access to food and water. Hospitals are near collapse. Hospital corridors are full of wounded and displaced. Destroyed infrastructure and homes will take years to rebuild.

Israel says Hamas headquarters are under Gaza hospitals 

Israel, meanwhile, slammed the WHO and other UN agencies for failing to call Hamas to account both for the initial 7 October rampage, and more recently, alleged use by Hamas of hospitals as command and control centers. 

“We have shared information and we expect international organizations, including WHO, to condemn Hamas for using these protected facilities,” said Israel’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Meirav Eilon Shahar, in a briefing to the international press on Monday. 

Israel has contended that key Hamas operations are taking place within underground tunnels below Al Shifa, Gaza’s largest hospital, as well as Al Quds, which has been explicitly ordered several times to evacuate. 

On Friday, Israel released details of its claims on Hamas operations at Al Shifa, including what it says are command and control centers nested in hospital diagnostic units, as well as extensive tunnel infrastructure under the hospital compound.

Israel’s rendition of alledged Hamas operations in and under Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital, the largest facility in the Palestinian enclave of some 2.3 milliion people.

Hamas has denied the claims. 

But even if Hamas is operating from under the hospital grounds, international law still prohibits the hospitals’ attack, contended Kenneth Roth, former executive director of the Geneva-based Human Rights Watch. 

“We obviously had war crimes to start this all off – Hamas slaughtering Israeli civilians and abducting them and firing weapons indiscriminately to civilian populated areas,” said Roth in an interview with Al Jazeera on Monday. “But we know that under international humanitarian law, war crimes by one side do not justify war crimes by the other. Each side has an independent obligation to respect the laws.

Kenneth Roth, former Executive Director, Human Rights Watch, in February 2020.

“And we see Israel violating them. I think most recently, we look at what’s happening with Al Quds hospital. Even if there is some Hamas facility underneath, we don’t even know that, you know, Israel made a similar allegation regarding Al Shifa.  But when you have 14,000 people in the hospital. Many in critical situations where they can’t be moved, an evacuation order doesn’t suffice. 

“And it’s wrong to suggest that whatever military advantage comes from hitting the supposed Hamas facility underneath, would justify the wholly disproportionate harm to civilians.” 

Appeals to release hostages  

On Monday, Hamas also released a video statement by three of the Israeli hostages that it is holding. The video portrays three Israeli women calling for Israel to agree to a cease-fire as well as to an exchange of the hostages in exchange for some 6,000 Hamas captives and other Palestinian prisoners held in Israel’s jails. 

The women, Elena Trupanov, Danielle Aloni and Rimon Kirsht, who were kidnapped along from their homes 7 October along with children or other family members, slammed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying:

 “We’re paying the price for your political, military and diplomatic failure, for the failure of 7 October, because you didn’t have the army there, no one was there protecting us. And now we,  innocent citizens, are being held captive… Let their prisoners and citizens free. Let us free, let us return to our families now, now, now.” 


Israeli hostages call for cease-fire and prisoner exchange in video released Monday by Hamas.

A senior Israeli official was reported to have visited Qatar over the weekend to discuss the matter of a hostage exchange. Families of hostages are pressing the Israeli government to agree to an “everyone for everyone” deal –  although Israel’s prime minister has so far ruled that out.   

Meanwhile, Israel’s army announced that it had managed to rescue one female soldier, Ori Megidish, who was captured by Hamas on 7 October , in an overnight raid into Gaza.  Another kidnapped Israeli-German who had attended the outdoor festival near Gaza, which was attacked by Hamas on the same day, was found dead, Israel’s Foreign Ministry reported. 

“A paramount mission is to bring all of these hostages back, whatever their nationality, all of them will be returned. The demand should be towards Hamas to return these families unconditionally,” said IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus, speaking from Tel Aviv to the Geneva briefing of UN press. 

“Responsibility for the safety and well-being of the hostages lies solely with Hamas,” Conricus said.  

‘Disappointed’ by failure to condemn Hamas rampage  

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Meirav Eilon Shahar

At the Geneva briefing, Shahar screened gruesome video footage of the 7 October Hamas attacks on the 22 Israeli communities near Gaza, including victims tortured before they were killed; the decapitation of a young men with a shovel; and infants shot or burned to death in their cribs. 

“This is what the state of Israel is faced with, a terrorist organization that acts and operates like ISIS and we cannot have this on our border,” she asserted.  

Speaking about the UN General Assembly refusal to condemn Hamas for its attacks on Israeli civilians as part of a resolution adopted Friday calling for a humanitarian cease-fire, Shahar said: 

“We are very disappointed by …every government that hasn’t condemned Hamas…. That there is no reference to the massacre of October 7, it’s outrageous. 

She added that Israel had also been “let down” by the WHO and other UN Agencies, which had not condemned the Hamas attacks in their immediate aftermath. 

“The fact that you did not have heads of agencies that did not come out on the 7th, 8th, 9th, or the 10th [of October], and condemn Hamas for being a terrorist organization, for butchering civilians and women, what does it say?” she asked.  

Humanitarian aid flows 

In terms of aid flows, some 117 trucks had entered Gaza as of Monday since last week’s opening of the humanitarian corridor, UN officials confirmed.

“But that is not nearly enough,” Jens Laerke, of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA), told Al Jazeera. 

“There needs to  be more pressure so we get this up to speed,” he said. “We need this to happen very soon, and we need this to happen in tandem with a humanitarian pause so that aid can be delivered in a safe and secure manner.”

In the Geneva briefing, Shahar said that Israel had restored water supplies to Gaza from two Israeli pipelines that run into the central and southern portions of the enclave.  

Conricus said that Israel was monitoring and evaluating, together with WHO and other aid agencies, the flow of humanitarian assistance to Gaza. The aid is being delivered through Egypt’s Rafah, crossing, the only door open to Gaza now, even partly. But he stressed that fuel would not be among the supplies granted access, saying that Hamas continues to hold a large stockpile, which it is reserving for its military campaign. 

“There will not be fuel,” he said, “because fuel is what Hamas needs the most to continue fighting and we are not obliged to provide fuel to serve the combat objectives of our enemy.” 

Added Shahar, “We know for a fact that fuel is held by Hamas, we have been hearing from the international community that they were running out of fuel for the last ten days, and miracle of miracles it hasn’t.”  

Image Credits: @PalestineRCS, Israel Defense Forces , John Zarocostas, https://twitter.com/shehabagency/status/1718978565222334778?s=48&t=s8ZMGV7YU4KTrayXom00uQ.

Combat the infodemic in health information and support health policy reporting from the global South. Our growing network of journalists in Africa, Asia, Geneva and New York connect the dots between regional realities and the big global debates, with evidence-based, open access news and analysis. To make a personal or organisational contribution click here on PayPal.