Home » Gazans trickle back to Khan Younis after Israeli evacuation order

Gazans trickle back to Khan Younis after Israeli evacuation order

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One of the largest hospitals in southern Gaza is “now completely empty” after medical staff, patients and their families fled the facility following an Israeli evacuation order for parts of Khan Younis, according to World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

At the same time, there are signs that many of the thousands who fled fearing the new Israeli incursion in Khan Younis are trickling back after being unable to find new shelter in the crowded parts of the Gaza Strip still accessible to them.

The European Hospital in Khan Younis was “one of the largest referral hospitals in the south,” Tedros said Tuesday on X. Most of its patients have been referred to Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis — a smaller facility that is now “at full capacity” and is facing shortages of essential drugs and medicines, according to Tedros.

The scramble to evacuate the hospital began Monday, when Israel issued evacuation orders for eastern parts of Khan Younis. Saleh al-Hams, who heads the hospital’s nursing department, previously told The Washington Post how news of the order flooded the phones of doctors and patients, prompting a scramble to pack up and leave. In the past, Israeli soldiers have detained medical staff who stayed behind to look after patients.

Hams said the European Hospital canceled all scheduled surgeries to evacuate its 400 patients. Some of the patients walked to Nasser Hospital, while others “were dragged in hospital beds … by their families” and others were taken there in ambulances.

Israeli authorities later said that the European Hospital was not subject to their evacuation order and that there was “no intention” to evacuate it — but the facility had already largely been emptied of its patients and staff.

This leaves the southern Gaza Strip — where many of the hospitals are no longer operational due to Israeli raids and strikes and shortages of medicines, staff, electricity and fuel — one more hospital short, “at a time when access to health care is urgently needed,” said Tedros.


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For many in Khan Younis, this week’s evacuation order was only the latest in a long string of forced displacements. Though the United Nations said up to a quarter-million Palestinians were affected by the order, some have already returned to Khan Younis, saying there is nowhere left in Gaza for them to go.

Rewaa Saafin, 41, her husband Rami Saafin, 45, and their four children decided to return to their relatives’ house in the Bani Suhaila neighborhood, east of Khan Younis, after spending one night in a tent in Mawasi with other relatives.

“All the residents here say that the Israeli operation has ended, and what happened was only an air bombardment, so we have returned. More importantly, we have no place to stay in another area,” Rewaa Saafin told The Post.

She described “a constant state of displacement” that makes it impossible for her family to firmly settle in any one place, secure food and water, find bathrooms and get to know neighbors. “Life involves many details beyond just finding a place to stay,” she said.

Raed Hamad, 50, said he had no choice but to quickly return to his relative’s house in Qezan al-Najjar, south of Khan Younis. He said his wife went to stay temporarily with relatives, while he and his sons “stayed on the street.”

“On Monday, we took some essential items with us, but we couldn’t take everything because we didn’t know where we would go. Now we have returned despite the danger. There has been no official announcement of the end of the operation, but there is no ground invasion, and many residents have returned to the area,” he told The Post.

“It can’t be said that the area is safe and has services. Every place in Gaza is damaged, but here we have a place to sleep,” he added.

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is “catastrophic and rapidly escalating,” 12 former U.S. government and military officials who resigned over the Biden administration’s handling of the war in Gaza wrote in a joint open letter published late Tuesday.

The signatories of the letter, who previously worked at the State Department, White House, Army and U.S. Agency for International Development among others, wrote that U.S. policy toward Israel and Gaza since the war and even before has “contributed to immense humanitarian harm” and failed “to contribute to the peace and safety of all in the Middle East, and particularly that of Israel.”

“The Administration’s policy in Gaza is a failure and a threat to U.S. national security,” they wrote.

Over the past few months, the resignations have provided a public view into the heightened levels of internal dissent within government institutions over U.S. policy toward Israel since the Oct. 7 massacre by Hamas. One of the former staffers who signed the open letter, Lily Greenberg Call, cited her Jewish upbringing and ties to Israel in her own resignation letter in May.

The signatories laid out six measures they said should be implemented to improve the situation, including for the U.S. government to declare units of Israeli forces ineligible for U.S. aid under human rights law. They also called for immediately increasing funding and support for humanitarian aid and reconstruction in Gaza, and protecting nonviolent protests against the war on U.S. college campuses.

Israeli police forcefully removed an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, leading to a confrontation with Jewish settlers, according to local media. Israel’s security cabinet last week approved legalizing five settler outposts and greenlighted plans to build thousands of new homes for settlers elsewhere in the West Bank, according to the Times of Israel. Washington condemned the move, with Vedant Patel, principal deputy spokesman for the State Department, saying Tuesday during a news briefing that “unilateral actions like settlement expansion and legalization of outposts … are detrimental to a two-state solution.”

Two people were injured in a stabbing attack in the northern Israeli city of Karmiel, near the border with Lebanon, Israeli police said Wednesday. Police, citing medical sources, said one of the victims was severely injured and the other mildly injured, and the attacker was “neutralized at the scene.” They added that “significant police forces” from the north were at the scene of the suspected terrorist attack.

At least 37,953 people have been killed and 87,266 injured in Gaza since the war started, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says the majority of the dead are women and children. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, including more than 300 soldiers, and it says 320 soldiers have been killed since the start of its military operations in Gaza.

Yasmeen Abutaleb contributed to this report.

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