Peace campaigners around the world demand ceasefire in Gaza
A nurse cares for prematurely born Palestinian babies that were brought from Shifa Hospital in Gaza City to the hospital in Rafah, Gaza Strip, November 19, 2023 | AP

Demonstrators around the world are demanding a ceasefire in Gaza as the Palestinian Red Crescent Society evacuated 31 premature babies from the “death zone” al-Shifa hospital yesterday.

Actions were held by peace campaigners in major cities across the world on Saturday, including Paris, Santiago de Chile and across the United States.

Protesters blocked the Golden Gate Bridge in California with their cars and threw their car keys into the bay so that authorities could not move the vehicles.

Across Britain tens of thousands of Palestine supporters took to the streets in more than 100 protests demanding a ceasefire in Gaza.

In London protesters defied a government ban on protests at railway stations. Hundreds of demonstrators marched  to Waterloo station despite a heavy police presence and arrests were made.

On Sunday, 31 premature babies were safely transferred from Gaza’s main hospital by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, health officials said.

The fate of the newborns at Shifa Hospital had captured global attention after the release of images showing doctors trying without electricity, food or water, trying to keep them warm.

World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on social media that the “very sick” babies were evacuated, along with six health workers and 10 staff family members.

He said they were taken to a hospital in the southern Gaza city of Rafah where they are now receiving urgent care.

A WHO team that visited the hospital on Saturday said 291 patients were still there, including the babies, trauma patients with severely infected wounds, and others with spinal injuries who were unable to move.

About 2,500 displaced people, mobile patients and medical staff left Al Shifa Hospital on Saturday morning, the WHO said.

It said 25 medical staff were still at Shifa, along with the patients.

“Patients and health staff with whom they spoke were terrified for their safety and health, and pleaded for evacuation,” the agency said, describing Shifa as a death zone.

Since Israeli troops stormed the hospital last week, an act widely described as a war crime, they have been unable to provide any credible evidence of its claim that Hamas maintains a sprawling command post inside and under Shifa, part of its wider accusation that the fighters use civilians as cover.

Hamas and hospital staff deny the allegations, and critics have held up the hospital as a symbol of what they say is Israel’s reckless endangerment of civilians.

The joint WHO-led United Nations investigation team assessed the hospital for one hour following its occupation and evacuation by the Israeli military.

The team said they saw evidence of shelling and gunfire and observed a mass grave at the hospital’s entrance.

Trying to arrange evacuation

The WHO said it was trying to arrange the urgent evacuation of remaining patients and staff to other facilities in Gaza, and repeated calls for a ceasefire.

On Saturday a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) staff member’s relative died and another one was injured in an attack on a convoy trying to evacuate 137 people.

The MSF staff members and their families had been trapped for a week in MSF premises located near the Shifa hospital.

A statement from MSF said: “Two of the MSF cars were deliberately hit, killing one MSF staff’s family member and injuring another.”

The statement added that MSF was calling again “for an immediate ceasefire, which is the only way for corridors to be implemented in order to safely evacuate trapped civilians.”

More than 11,500 Palestinians have been killed, according to Palestinian health authorities. Another 2,700 have been reported missing, believed buried under rubble.

Around 1,200 people have been killed on the Israeli side, mainly during Hamas’s October 7 uprising against Israel’s occupation.

More than two-thirds of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million have fled their homes.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, is struggling to provide basic services to hundreds of thousands of people sheltering in and around schools and other facilities.

Their misery has worsened in recent days with the arrival of winter, as cold winds and driving rain buffet tent camps.

Over the weekend, Israel allowed UNRWA to import enough fuel to continue humanitarian operations for another couple of days, and to keep some telephone and internet systems running.

Israel cut off all fuel imports at the start of the war, causing Gaza’s sole power plant and most water treatment systems to shut down, leaving the population without electricity or running water.

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Roger McKenzie
Roger McKenzie

Roger McKenzie is the International Editor of Morning Star, Britain’s daily socialist newspaper. He is the author of the book "African Uhuru: The Fight for African Freedom in the Rise of the Global South" published by Manifesto Press.