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


The newborns had become a symbol of the suffering at Al-Shifa Hospital, which was raided by Israeli forces last week.

Premature babies at the Emirati Hospital in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday. Twenty-eight of the 31 infants that arrived there from Al-Shifa Hospital were sent on to Egypt.
Credit…Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times

Matthew Mpoke BiggSamar Abu Elouf

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 the United Nations and an Egyptian state television network, Al Qahera News. But five others who had been cared for at the hospital died before they could be evacuated.

The babies had become a symbol of civilian suffering at the hospital, which was surrounded by Israeli forces last week and then raided. They were taken from there on Sunday to the southern city of Rafah, site of the territory’s only functioning border crossing.

“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.

card:1 of 9

Samar Abu Elouf

Samar Abu Elouf

Reporting from Gaza

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

One mother, Ayat Al Daour, was reunited with her twin daughters, Mera and Dahab, at the Emirati Hospital on Monday, before they were transferred to Egypt. She said she gave birth at Al-Shifa five days into the fighting and was soon released — but without her daughters. She had not seen them for 39 days.

After being discharged, Ms. Al Daour said, she fled her home for a refugee camp in Gaza City, then heeded warnings about the danger there and headed south — all the while unable to communicate with medical workers at Al-Shifa. Hearing news reports that the babies had been moved to Emirati Hospital, she walked hours to the hospital and finally saw her girls alive and well, she said.

“When they were saying a premature baby died on the news, I could not know whether that was my baby or not,” she said.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which helped organize the evacuation, said on social media that five babies “had already died due to lack of electricity and fuel” at Al-Shifa. Israel imposed a siege on Gaza that has largely blocked supplies of fuel, food and water after the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas that killed around 1,200 people in Israel.

The W.H.O., which is a United Nations agency, said in a statement on Sunday that 11 of the babies were in critical condition and that all were fighting serious infections.

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

The Israeli military said in a statement it had helped to facilitate the evacuation from the pediatric ward and provided incubators to Al-Shifa. It was not clear whether those were the incubators used to transport the babies.

The W.H.O.’s director general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, posted a photograph 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 had a headquarters underneath Al-Shifa, something Hamas as well as doctors there deny.

Israel’s push to seize Al-Shifa last week 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.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here