Children injured in an Israeli air strike react as they receive treatment in Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Tuesday. Authorities fear hundreds more are buried under the rubble.—AFP
Children injured in an Israeli air strike react as they receive treatment in Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Tuesday. Authorities fear hundreds more are buried under the rubble.—AFP

GAZA STRIP: Hundreds of Palestinians were killed on Tuesday when Israel carried out air strikes on a hospital and a refugee camp in Gaza, where people had sought shelter to escape the relentless bombing on residential areas, according to the health ministry.

The strikes came as world leaders intensified efforts to find a solution to the crisis, which has already resulted in the killing of over 3,000 Palestinians in Israeli strikes across the Gaza Strip since Oct 7.

A health ministry official in Gaza said at least 500 were killed in the Israeli air strikes on the yard“ of the Ahli Arab hospital in central Gaza. “Hundreds of victims are still under the rubble,” it added.

The media office of Gaza’s government desc­ribed it as a “war crime”.

Three days of mourning in Palestine; Biden to visit Israel today; aid yet to arrive in Gaza as Rafah crossing remains shut

“The hospital was housing hundreds of sick and wounded, and people forcibly displaced from their homes” because of other strikes, a statement said.

Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari told a televised press briefing: “We will look into it… the strike happened just a short while ago.”

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has declared three days of mourning after the “hospital massacre” in Gaza.

 A Palestinian child injured in an Israeli air strike is carried inside the Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis in the southern of Gaza Strip, on October 17. — AFP
A Palestinian child injured in an Israeli air strike is carried inside the Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis in the southern of Gaza Strip, on October 17. — AFP

Earlier in the day, an Israeli strike killed at least six people sheltering in the Al-Maghazi refugee camp inside a school, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees said.

UNRWA commissioner-general Philippe Lazzarini called the bombing at Al-Maghazi refugee camp, in central Gaza, “outrageous” and warned the death toll would likely rise.

“It again shows a flagrant disregard for the lives of civilians. No place is safe in Gaza anymore, not even UNRWA facilities,” he added.

Gaza’s interior ministry said at least 49 Palestin­ians were also killed in an overnight Israeli strike that hit homes in Khan Yunis and Rafah.

Condemnations

Canada, Egypt, Qatar, Turkiye, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran and WHO have denounced the air strikes on the Ahli Arab hospital, and called upon the international community for intervention to stop such violations.

 Children sit in the back of an ambulance at Shifa Hospital after an Israeli air strike hit the nearby Al-Ahli Hospital, according to Gaza Health Ministry in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, October 17. — Reuters
Children sit in the back of an ambulance at Shifa Hospital after an Israeli air strike hit the nearby Al-Ahli Hospital, according to Gaza Health Ministry in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, October 17. — Reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the deadly Israeli strike was “the latest example devoid of the most basic human values”.

 Screengrab of Google-translated post by Erdogan.
Screengrab of Google-translated post by Erdogan.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the Israeli strike on the hospital “horrific and absolutely unacceptable”.

Trudeau told reporters that “it’s not acceptable to hit a hospital”.

Egypt’s foreign ministry also released a statement condemning the strike.

Hospitals in Gaza were already at a “breaking point” as tens of thousands of families have flocked there for refuge.

The WHO said 111 medical buildings have been hit by Israel, with 12 medical workers dead and 60 ambulances targeted.

The UN health agency stated: “WHO strongly condemns the attack on Al Ahli Arab Hospital. The hospital was one of 20 in the north of the Gaza Strip facing evacuation orders from the Israeli military.

“The order for evacuation has been impossible to carry out given the current insecurity, critical condition of many patients, and lack of ambulances, staff, health system bed capacity, and alternative shelter for those displaced.”

Diplomatic efforts

 People gather around bodies of Palestinians killed in Israeli air strikes on a hospital in Gaza Strip, on Tuesday.—AFP
People gather around bodies of Palestinians killed in Israeli air strikes on a hospital in Gaza Strip, on Tuesday.—AFP

The atrocities by Israeli forces continued on the eve of US President Joe Biden’s visit to the Middle East.

The US President’s visit to Israel on Wednesday will be a show of “ironclad” sup­­port as Washington tries to prevent the escalating war against Hamas in Gaza from spilling into a wider Middle East conflict.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has been shuttling between Middle Eastern countries, announced Biden’s planned visit at the end of hours of talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he said the Israeli leader had agreed to develop a plan to get humanitarian aid to Gaza civilians. He gave no details.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is also set to visit Israel this week, Sky News reported on Tuesday.

Jordan’s King Abdullah on Tuesday held a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin.

He warned against trying to push Palestinian refugees into Egypt or Jordan, adding that the humanitarian situation must be dealt with inside Gaza and the West Bank.

“That is a red line, because I think that is the plan by certain of the usual suspects to try and create de facto issues on the ground. No refugees in Jordan, no refugees in Egypt,” King Abdullah said.

Meanwhile, Egypt will host a summit of state leaders to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said.

Relief efforts

Relief goods have yet to make their way into Gaza as the only crossing into the enclave not controlled by Israel, was still closed in absence of an agreement to deliver the aid.

 An injured person is assisted after an Israeli air strike hit At Al-Ahli Hospital, according to Gaza Health Ministry in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, October 17. — Reuters
An injured person is assisted after an Israeli air strike hit At Al-Ahli Hospital, according to Gaza Health Ministry in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, October 17. — Reuters

Egypt has said the Rafah crossing, a key route for desperately needed supplies, has not been officially closed but has become inoperable due to the Israeli air strikes on the Gaza side.

The World Health Organisation has said it needed urgent access to Gaza to deliver aid and medical supplies.

Early on Tuesday some 160 trucks left Al-Arish in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, where loads of aid have been awaiting an agreement on aid delivery, a witness told Reuters.

The UN’s World Food Programme said the food situation in the besieged and blockaded Gaza Strip was worsening, with only four or five days of stocks left in the shops.

WFP said stocks were getting low in warehouses inside the Palestinian enclave, but at the shop level, the situation was even more acute.

“The situation in Gaza is getting worse by the minute: the humanitarian situation but also of course the food security situation,” WFP’s Middle East spokeswoman told reporters.

Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2023

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