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Patients of destroyed Gaza hospital at risk of death without evacuation, warns WHO chief

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that failure to quickly carry out medical evacuations following the destruction of al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza could lead to further fatalities.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a media briefing on Wednesday commented on the destruction of al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City following the Israeli army’s two-week raid, saying “the situation looks disastrous.”

The urgency to speed up the evacuation process was emphasized by the WHO chief, as he expressed concerns about the potential loss of numerous lives if action is not taken promptly.

“The people who need medical evacuation will increase, and medical evacuation is already slow,” Tedros said, adding that “people will die because they will not get the services either from Shifa or because of slow evacuation, because they cannot be evacuated.”

He also added that he is “appalled” that the al-Shifa hospital has been put out of action and that much of it has been badly damaged or destroyed.

Al-Shifa was the largest hospital and main referral center in the Gaza Strip, with 750 beds, 26 operating rooms, 32 intensive care rooms, a dialysis department and a central laboratory.

Israel claims Hamas fighters operate from in and around hospitals, which the Palestinian resistance movement and medical staff reject.

Tedros reiterated his call for hospitals in Gaza to be “respected and protected” and “not be used as battlefields.”

The WHO chief also said that only 10 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are still able to function even partially and that WHO will continue to support those hospitals to deliver services as best they can.

He added that the UN agency is seeking to visit the location where Al-Shifa stood in order to engage with the staff and assess the extent of salvageable resources.

According to WHO, since the Israeli assault on Gaza on October 7, 906 attacks on health care in Gaza, the West Bank, the occupied territories and Lebanon have been verified, resulting in 736 deaths and 1,014 injuries.

In the same address, the WHO chief praised the seven aid workers who were killed in an Israeli airstrike in central Gaza on Monday, for their service in Gaza and for putting themselves in harm’s way to help others.

“Delays and denials of humanitarian missions not only prevent us from reaching those in need, but also impact other operations and deliveries by diverting scarce resources,” he said.

Tedros added that the “horrific” killing of the aid workers highlights “the extreme danger” under which humanitarians operate in Gaza.

More than 180 days into the war, the regime has achieved no objectives despite killing at least 32,975 people in Gaza and injuring 75,577 , mostly women and children.

Tel Aviv has also blocked water, food, and electricity to Gaza, plunging the coastal strip into a humanitarian crisis.

Last month, the United Nations warned that in the absence of any changes in the war, Gaza was on course to experience all-out famine.

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