Israeli forces launch war on Gaza hospitals

Published November 11, 2023
EAST JERUSALEM: An Israeli security officer gestures as Palestinians offer Friday prayers in the Ras al-Amud neighbourhood. Israeli forces barred the entry of anyone below the age of 50 inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound for prayers.—AFP
EAST JERUSALEM: An Israeli security officer gestures as Palestinians offer Friday prayers in the Ras al-Amud neighbourhood. Israeli forces barred the entry of anyone below the age of 50 inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound for prayers.—AFP

• Nearly 60 health facilities rendered out of service
• Tanks take up position around hospitals
• WHO chief warns health system ‘on its knees’

GAZA CITY: Air strikes hit three hospitals and a school in Gaza Strip on Friday, killing 22 people, as the Israeli military resorted to shelling the heart of the besieged enclave.

Palestinian officials said missiles landed in the courtyard of Gaza’s biggest hospital, Al Shifa, in the early hours of Friday, damaged the Indonesian Hospital and set fire to the Nasser Rantissi paediatric cancer hospital.

The three hospitals are in northern Gaza, where Israel says the Hamas fighters who took part in the raid last month are concentrated, and are full of displaced people as well as patients and doctors.

The head of the World Health Organisation informed the UN Security Council the health system in Gaza Strip is “on its knees”, noting that almost 50 per cent of the territory’s hospitals are no longer functioning.

In another development, an Israeli spokesman said efforts were underway for the release of prisoners held in Gaza Strip, but that such efforts take time.

“We are working all the time and with initiative on a range of efforts to return the hostages. These efforts are complex, they are not final. They take time, they are going to take time,” he said.

According to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, 18 of the territory’s hospitals and 40 other health centres were out of service either due to damage from shelling or lack of fuel.

Israeli tanks, which have been advancing through northern Gaza for almost two weeks, have taken up position around the Nasser Rantissi, Children’s and Eye hospitals as well as the Al Quds hospital, medical staff said earlier, raising the alarm.

“Israel is now launching a war on Gaza City’s hospitals,” Mohammad Abu Selmeyah, director of Shifa Hospital, said.

A spokesperson for the health ministry said Israel had bombed the hospital five times. “One Palesti­nian was killed and several were wounded in the early morning attack,” he said by phone.

Videos verified by news agencies showed scenes of panic and people covered in blood.

The spokesperson said later that 20 people were killed in Israeli strikes on Al Buraq school in Gaza City, where people whose homes had been destroyed were sheltering.

The Palestinian Red Cross said Israeli forces were shooting at Al Quds Hospital, leaving one person dead and 28 wounded, most of them children.

The armed wing of Hamas said on Friday it was still firing rockets and shells into Israel and fighting off troops in Gaza.

Sirens sounded in Tel Aviv and surrounding areas to alert people to “Hamas rocket fire”. Medics reported two women in Tel Aviv suffered shrapnel wounds from a salvo.

Struggling hospitals

Even before rockets and missiles started raining on them after the Oct 7 Hamas raid, Gaza’s hospitals were struggling to cope, with medical supplies, clean water and fuel to power generators running out and surgery being done without anaesthetics.

In the wake of the blast at Shifa Hospital, many people left. Ayman Al Masri, wounded in his leg, had taken shelter there with his mother and sister 10 days ago.

“They struck Shifa today. Everyone started to run to the streets and we came here walking,” Masri said, his leg still painful.

“We want a truce, we want a solution, a political solution. I want the whole world to stand with us,” he said. “Tens of our children are killed every day, these are massacres, this is an all-out war.”

The Israeli government said people would have all day to move to the south of Gaza and Al Masri was among thousands escaping. Hamas-affiliated media cited health officials as saying three people were killed on a road used by people heading south.

An Israeli spokesperson alleged that Hamas has its headquarters in the basement of Al Shifa, meaning the hospital could lose its protected status and become a “legitimate target”.

Clearing out all hospitals is impossible, a Palestinian official said. “We are talking about 45 babies in incubators, 52 children in intensive care units, hundreds of wounded and patients, and tens of thousands of displaced people,” he said.

Palestinian officials estimated that slightly over 11,000 people had been killed in Gaza Strip as of Thursday in air and artillery strikes.

Meanwhile, Israel on Friday revised down the death toll of last month’s Hamas raid from 1,400 to about 1,200.

Published in Dawn, November 11th, 2023

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