Episcopal Church protests closure of its Gaza hospital by Israeli evacuation orders

CAIRO (Reuters) -The Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East protested the closure of Al-Ahli Arab Anglican Hospital in Gaza City as a result of the evacuation of several residential districts ordered by the Israeli military.

A statement issued in the name of the Diocese of Jerusalem said the hospital has been "compelled to close by the Israeli army".

On Sunday evening, a large amount of firing from drones occurred in the immediate vicinity of the hospital, it said.

"This was followed by an IDF (Israeli military) announcement that the area had been declared a red zone and that everyone should immediately evacuate all the buildings including everyone in the hospital," the statement said.

Contacted by Reuters, the Israeli military said in a statement it called on civilians in specific areas of Gaza City to move out, to minimise the risk to them, but that it had told Palestinian health officials and the international community that there was no need to evacuate hospitals in the area.

New evacuation orders to Palestinian families and residents of several eastern Gaza City suburbs had caused a new wave of displacement of thousands of people.

In a time when injured Palestinians have few options available for treatment, the closure of the hospital forced Palestinian health officials to move injured and patients to another hospital in the northern Gaza Strip.

"We protest the closure of our hospital in the strongest possible terms. In a time of warfare and great suffering it is essential that emergency healthcare services are maintained to treat the injured and the dying," the statement quoted Archbishop Hosam Naoum, Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Jerusalem as saying.

Archbishop Naoum urged Israel to allow the opening of the hospital and an end to the targeting of civilians. He appealed to warring parties to reach an immediate ceasefire.

Israel denies it deliberately attacks civilians.

(Reporting and writing by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Angus MacSwan)