Thousands of Palestinians in Gaza City fled from the main hospital on Friday due to strikes that were attributed to Israel.
This has added to the growing number of people moving south as the fighting intensifies, and Gaza officials reported that the Palestinian death toll from the war has exceeded 11,000.
On Friday, thousands of Palestinians took to Gaza’s only highway to escape the combat zone in the north after Israel declared a safe passage window. However, the situation remains dire as those who have already fled face ongoing bombardments and harsh conditions.Palestinian evacuees express a large number of individuals protecting at Shifa clinic have escaped after strikes
The recent strikes in northern Gaza highlight the danger faced by those who sought refuge in and around hospitals, believing that they would be safe. Gaza medical officials accused Israel of targeting four hospitals on Friday, though Israel claims that at least one strike was a result of a misfired Palestinian rocket.
Gaza’s largest city has become the focal point of Israel’s campaign against Hamas since its surprise incursion in early October. Early on Friday, Israel targeted the courtyard and obstetrics department of Shifa Hospital, the largest hospital in Gaza, where tens of thousands of people have sought shelter.
Videos from the scene captured the sound of incoming fire, chaos, and people calling for ambulances. Blood was visible on the hospital grounds, and one man appeared to have suffered a severe leg injury. The Israeli army accuses Hamas of hiding in and around hospitals and claims that a command center has been set up under Shifa, allegations that the militant group and hospital staff deny.
Following the bombings, thousands of people fled the hospital, while tens of thousands of displaced individuals—possibly as many as 60,000—have taken refuge at the Shifa complex. The exact number of individuals who fled is unknown at this time. However, due to disruptions in phone and internet connectivity, doctors at Shifa Hospital could not be reached for comment.
The director of Shifa questioned where such a large number of patients could be evacuated to, as there are no suitable facilities available. The Health Ministry later confirmed that one person had been killed at Shifa and several others were injured. Additionally, another strike near the Al-Nasr Medical Center, which includes two children’s hospitals, resulted in two fatalities.
According to Gaza health officials, strikes were carried out near four hospitals overnight and early Friday. Initial findings suggest that one strike at Shifa was caused by a misfire from militants, but a military review is ongoing.
At Shifa Hospital, families are currently sleeping in various areas, including hospital rooms, emergency rooms, surgical theaters, and the maternity ward. Some are even sleeping outside on the streets. Morgues have reached capacity, with bodies now being stored outside under tents.
Daily food distributions have been providing assistance to a small number of people for a while, but recently there has been a shortage of bread, according to reports. The availability of water is scarce and often contaminated, making it difficult for people to find clean water for bathing.
Margaret Harris, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization, revealed that out of Gaza’s 36 hospitals, 20 are no longer operational. This includes a pediatric hospital that used to provide essential care like dialysis and life support to children. Evacuating these patients safely is a challenging task.
Since the start of the war, over two-thirds of Gaza’s population, totaling 2.3 million people, have been displaced from their homes. On Friday, a constant flow of civilians could be seen on both sides of Gaza’s main north-south highway. Parents were walking with their small children, some chose to travel in donkey carts with their belongings piled on the roof, while others rode bicycles.
The Israeli military has allocated several hours each day for civilians to escape from northern Gaza. On Friday, a six-hour window was announced. The White House stated that Israel has agreed to implement a daily humanitarian pause, aiming to formalize and expand the process. Additionally, Israel has agreed to establish a second route for people seeking refuge.
According to the Israeli military spokesperson Jonathan Conricus, over 850,000 out of 1.1 million people in northern Gaza have evacuated. He described these pauses as “quick humanitarian windows” that enable southward movement while the fighting continues. However, Francesca Albanese, the U.N. expert for the Palestinian territories, criticized these pauses, labeling them as cynical and cruel. She argued that they only provide a brief respite before the resumption of bombings.
The death tolls continue to rise, with over 11,070 Palestinians losing their lives since the war began, as reported by the Gaza Health Ministry. Two-thirds of these casualties are women and minors, and the ministry does not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths. It is also believed that around 2,650 individuals are still missing.
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged that there have been far too many Palestinian casualties and expressed his view that recent Israeli efforts to minimize harm to civilians are positive but insufficient. Although some have questioned the figures from the Gaza Health Ministry, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Barbara Leaf suggested that the actual numbers might be even higher.
In Israel, more than 1,400 people have lost their lives, mainly due to the initial attack by Hamas. Additionally, 41 Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza during the ground offensive. Palestinian militants have continued launching rocket attacks into Israel, resulting in an attack in Tel Aviv that wounded at least two people on Friday. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
As a result of the conflict, around 250,000 Israelis living near Gaza and along the northern border with Lebanon have been evacuated. The region has witnessed frequent exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and Hezbollah militants.