Gaza: ‘Egypt had no hand in delaying the entry of Gaza injured through Rafah’, says minister

Egypt’s Minister of Health Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar emphasized that Egypt was not the cause of the delay in receiving medical patients from Gaza, while confirming that the Egyptian health system is fully capable of accommodating Palestinian patients.

This came in an exclusive interview of Abdel-Ghaffar on CNN with Eleni Giokos which was aired on Saturday.

“It is not Egypt’s decision,” Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar said, adding that Egyptian medical teams are already waiting to receive injured Palestinians through the Rafah border crossing.

Asked about whose decision it was, the minister said that he did not know but “certainly someone has to give a clearance for those patients to come out” reasserting that he has no information about whether Israel was the decision maker in that or not.

According to Abdel-Ghaffar, Egypt has allocated 37 hospitals with more than 11 thousand beds and 1,500 ICUs, along with more than 38 thousand physicians and 25 thousand nurses ready to operate.

Asked about whether the injuries he has seen constitute crimes against humanity, Abdel-Ghaffar answered affirmatively.

“How do you explain children playing in a playground, or at school, or getting treated at hospitals, getting killed for no reason? Even a cancer patient, five or six years old getting chemotherapy. What do you call that?” He asked.

Egypt has begun receiving child cancer patients from the war-battered Gaza Strip, shortly after Turkey announced plans to take cancer patients, including children, as per an agreement with Egypt in early November.

According to the agreement, 1,000 Palestinian cancer patients in need of urgent treatment would come through the Rafah crossing to Egypt. Some would continue their treatment in Egypt while others would be transferred to Turkey.

The agreement was announced after the only cancer hospital in Gaza, the Turkish Palestinian Friendship Hospital–which was funded by Turkey–went out of service after running out of fuel.

Egypt’s Minister of Health also told CNN that currently in Gaza there are neonates who need ventilators, but the hospitals are currently out of electricity and gas as well as out of medication.

“They (Palestinian doctors) told me that they are trying to put three neonates in one incubator, can you believe that!? They sent me photos from them,” said Abdel-Ghaffar.

In previous statements, the health minister revealed that Egypt had been asked to receive the neonates at Al-Shifa Hospital, and said Egypt is ready to receive those premature babies at any time.

Asked about the timeline for bringing Al-Shifa’s premature babies into Egypt, Abdel-Ghaffar said “Unfortunately, this is not in our hands.”

He added that an Egyptian ambulance is standing by at the border, ready to move them as soon as they cross the Rafah border crossing

“The hospitals are ready with ventilators and incubators for that purpose already,” he added, emphasizing that “the other side” needs to get them into Egypt.

When asked about the Egyptian side’s investigation into injuries coming from Gaza, the minister responded that his medical teams have not seen injuries like the ones coming from Gaza in regular medical practice.

The injuries are mainly caused by shrapnel and debris, causing fractures of all kinds, deep wounds, tissue loss, organ damage, quadriplegia, hemiplegia, and limb amputation.

Israel evacuates al-Shifa hospital

Israel forces al-Shifa hospital’s patients and staff to leave Gaza’s biggest hospital, al-Shifa. The Saturday evacuation was described by patients and staff leaving as a forced mass exodus.

“We left at gunpoint,” Mahmoud Abu Auf told The Associated Press by phone after he and his family left the crowded hospital. “Tanks and snipers were everywhere inside and outside.” He said he saw Israeli troops detain three men.

A United Nations team said Sunday that 291 patients were left at Gaza’s largest hospital after Israeli troops had others evacuate.

Those left included 32 babies in extremely critical condition, trauma patients with severely infected wounds and others with spinal injuries who are unable to move.

The team was able to tour Shifa Hospital for an hour after about 2,500 displaced people, mobile patients and medical staff left the sprawling compound Saturday morning, said the World Health Organization, which led the mission.

“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. It said more teams will attempt to reach Shifa in coming days to try to evacuate the patients to southern Gaza, where hospitals are also overwhelmed.

Israeli troops are staying in the hospital. Israel’s military has been searching Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital for a Hamas command center that it alleges is located under the facility — a claim.

Also in northern Gaza, dozens of people were killed in the urban Jabaliya refugee camp when what witnesses described as an Israeli airstrike hit a crowded U.N. shelter in the main combat zone. It caused massive destruction in the camp’s Fakhoura school, said wounded survivors Ahmed Radwan and Yassin Sharif.

“The scenes were horrifying. Corpses of women and children were on the ground. Others were screaming for help,” Radwan said by phone. AP photos from a local hospital showed more than 20 bodies wrapped in bloodstained sheets.

“Receiving horrifying images & footage of scores of people killed and injured in another UNRWA school sheltering thousands of displaced,” Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner general of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, or UNRWA, said on X, formerly Twitter.

In southern Gaza, an Israeli airstrike hit a residential building on the outskirts of the town of Khan Younis, killing at least 26 Palestinians, according to a doctor at the hospital where the bodies were taken.

Twenty-five of Gaza’s hospitals aren’t functioning due to a lack of fuel, damage and other problems, and the other 11 are only partially operational, according to the World Health Organization.

Israel has said hospitals in northern Gaza were a key target of its ground offensive, claiming they were used as militant command centers and weapons depots, which both Hamas and medical staff deny.