Israeli troops facilitated the transfer of 28 premature babies from Shifa Hospital in the northern Gaza Strip to Egypt through the Rafah border crossing, the Israel Defense Forces announced on Monday.
The military had accused the Hamas terror organization of preventing their departure last week.
The infants were transferred out of the Gaza Strip with the assistance of the United Nations at the request of the Egyptian government and with the approval of Shifa Hospital director Mohammed Abu Selmia, according to IDF Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.
“IDF teams on the ground assisted U.N. teams in the evacuation using incubators provided by Israel,” the IDF said, as it vowed to “continue to assist in the humanitarian efforts in Gaza.”
According to The Guardian, the IDF helped evacuate a total of 31 babies from Shifa Hospital. However, three of the newborns reportedly stayed in Gaza—the families of two of them wanted them to remain there for “personal reasons,” and the third could not be identified.
Weapons cache discovered at hospital
On Nov. 12, the IDF first announced that it would help assist with the evacuation of infants from Shifa. Hamas has tried to prevent the departure of premature babies from the hospital, added IDF International Spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht.
“We’re speaking directly and regularly with the hospital staff. The staff of Shifa Hospital has requested that tomorrow, we will help the babies in the pediatric department to get to a safer hospital,” according to an IDF statement.
Israel also provided evidence that Hamas has stockpiles of fuel and other supplies that it keeps for itself, refusing to share it with Shifa’s neonatal intensive-care unit.
Shifa has been the focus of world attention in recent days as Israel has closed in and surrounded it, culminating in a raid into the hospital on Wednesday. Israeli troops discovered weapons and “terror infrastructure” inside the hospital after killing terrorists at the compound.
The IDF in recent weeks has provided evidence that Hamas uses Shifa and other hospitals in Gaza for its operational activities, which are conducted in a massive tunnel system underneath the complexes.
The patients at these hospitals are used as human shields and to hide Hamas’s activities, according to the IDF.
On Sunday, the IDF and the Israel Security Agency announced that troops operating in Shifa Hospital discovered a 180-foot-long terror tunnel buried over 30 feet underground.
“The tunnel shaft was uncovered in the area of the hospital underneath a shed alongside a vehicle containing numerous weapons, including RPGs, explosives and Kalashnikov rifles,” said the IDF.
According to the military, the entrance to the tunnel was outfitted with “various defense mechanisms” to prevent Israeli forces from entering, such as a blast door and a firing hole.
Hamas held at least three of the estimated 240 hostages it kidnapped from Israel on Oct. 7 at Shifa Hospital, the IDF revealed on Sunday night, presenting CCTV footage of the hostages being brought into the hospital.
Hagari said intelligence confirmed that Hamas terrorists had “quickly” murdered Cpl. Noa Marciano at Shifa, after she was taken there with non-life-threatening injuries sustained during her capture.
In addition to Marciano, two hostages from Nepal and Thailand were hidden at Shifa Hospital in the immediate aftermath of the Oct. 7 massacre, said Hagari.