PALESTINIANS flee Khan Yunis on donkey carts and dilapidated cars under fear of a fresh assault by the Israeli army in the southern Gaza Strip, on Thursday.—AFP
PALESTINIANS flee Khan Yunis on donkey carts and dilapidated cars under fear of a fresh assault by the Israeli army in the southern Gaza Strip, on Thursday.—AFP

JERUSALEM: Israeli forces rai­ded the biggest functioning hospital in Gaza on Thursday, as footage showed chaos, shouting and gunfire in dark corridors filled with dust and smoke.

Israel’s military claimed the raid on Nasser Hospital was based on information that Hamas fighters were hiding and had kept hostages in the facility, claims which Hamas called “lies”.

But according to the health ministry in Gaza, patients and medics were enduring “dire and frightening conditions” after the raid, as thousands of displaced civilians who had sought refuge in its grounds were forced to leave by Israeli troops.

The ministry said more than 460 people were made to go to an old hospital building, where they were “without food, without milk for children, and a severe shortage of water”.

“Nasser medical complex is witnessing a catastrophic and alarming situation, as a result of the lack of medical resources,” it said.

MSF, WHO deplore military action; health ministry says Israeli troops forced thousands to vacate; footage shows scenes of utter chaos

Earlier this week, a nurse at the hospital told AFP multiple people had been shot dead by Israeli snipers, tanks had opened fire on the complex and people were forced out at gunpoint.

Medical charity Doctors Without Borders described a “chaotic situation” in the hospital after it was shelled early on Thursday, killing and wounding multiple people.

“Our medical staff have had to flee the hospital, leaving patients behind,” MSF said on X, formerly Twitter, with one employee unaccounted for and another detained by Israeli forces.

Footage circulating on social media showed rescuers trying to move patients from the hospital’s orthopaedic ward after it was reportedly hit.

Using mobile flashlights, rescuers were seen dragging a patient on a bed, while others carried another sick person in a blanket amid fallen debris.

Another video sent by the health ministry in Gaza showed a row of patients on their beds in a packed corridor.

Israeli forces operating across the Gaza Strip have repeatedly raided hospitals, alleging that the facilities are being used as command centres by Hamas.

In one video, gunshots rang out and a doctor shouted: “Is there anyone still inside? There is gunfire, there is gunfire - heads down”.

Another man in a video said the Israeli army had surrounded the hospital and nobody could get out.

Mohammad al Moghrabi, who had been sheltering in the compound, said some people who attempted to leave on Wednesday were shot at and so returned to the hospital.

“This morning they said there was a safe passage, so we left, but it wasn’t safe. They approached us with a bulldozer and a tank, they insulted us and left us for four hours under the sun.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has described Nasser hospital as a critical facility “for all of Gaza”, where only a minority of hospitals are even partly operational.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday he was “alarmed” by reports from Nasser Hospital, which he described as the “backbone of the health system in southern Gaza”.

Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2024

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