28 Premature Babies Evacuated From Al-Shifa Hospital Arrive in Egypt

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The babies were among 31 taken from the embattled Al-Shifa Hospital to southern Gaza on Sunday. They had become a symbol of the suffering at the hospital, which was raided by Israeli forces.

Three babies covered in blankets and surrounded by medical Staff.
Preparing premature babies for transfer to Egypt on Monday. The babies were evacuated from Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Sunday.Credit…Said Khatib/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Matthew Mpoke Bigg

Twenty-eight premature babies who had been in intensive care at the embattled Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza were transported across the border to Egypt for medical care on Monday, according to an Egyptian state television network, Al Qahera News.

The babies had become a symbol of civilian suffering at the hospital, which was surrounded by Israeli forces last week and then raided.

“The Palestine Red Crescent ambulance teams departed from in front of the Emirati Hospital in Rafah to transport 28 premature infants to the Rafah Crossing, in preparation for their transfer to receive medical treatment in Egyptian hospitals,” the Red Crescent said on X, formerly Twitter. Al Qahera News later reported that the ambulances had crossed the border.

Thirty-one premature babies were evacuated from Al-Shifa on Sunday and taken to southern Gaza, the Red Crescent and the World Health Organization said. It was not immediately clear why all 31 had not been taken to Egypt.

The W.H.O., which is a U.N. agency, said in a statement on Sunday that 11 of the babies were in critical condition and that all were fighting serious infections. None were accompanied by family members. Two others died before they could be evacuated from Al-Shifa, according to the agency.

UNICEF, which said it had participated in the “extremely dangerous” evacuation effort, said the conditions of the babies had been “rapidly deteriorating.” It said that the babies had been moved to Rafah in temperature-controlled incubators.

The W.H.O.’s director general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, posted a photo on X of a staff member in a blue United Nations helmet and bulletproof vest scooping up a tiny infant. The babies, along with six health care workers and 10 family members of hospital employees, were evacuated “under extremely intense and high-risk security conditions,” he wrote.

The authorities in Israel have said it has evidence that Hamas, the group that attacked Israel on Oct. 7 and killed around 1,200 people, had a headquarters underneath Al-Shifa, something Hamas as well as doctors there deny.

Israel’s push to seize Al-Shifa set off a struggle to survive there. Doctors and health officials warned that nearly 40 premature babies were at particular risk. Some had been born to mothers who had been killed in airstrikes or who died shortly after giving birth, doctors at Al-Shifa have said. Some were the only survivors in their families.

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