HomeWorld NewsAnother Gaza hospital caught in fighting, as storms deepen civilian misery

Another Gaza hospital caught in fighting, as storms deepen civilian misery

CAIRO — Heavy Israeli bombardments struck both north and south Gaza, killing more civilians and once again bringing hospitals into the crossfire on Monday as the conflict entered its 45th day with few signs of letup or a cease-fire.

The dire conditions were compounded by storms that raged across the seaside enclave and dumped cold rain on the hundreds of thousands of displaced people who have been living in makeshift shelters and tents to escape the fighting.

In a rare moment of positive news amid the grinding conflict, more than two dozen very sick premature babies, 11 of them in critical condition, left the Gaza Strip in ambulances for hospitals in Egypt.

The plight of babies trapped in al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest, had garnered global attention as the lack of food, water and electricity threatened their lives until they were finally evacuated.

Hospitals have become a focal point of the fighting, with Israel accusing Hamas of using the buildings as strategic hubs and the residents inside as human shields. Hamas has denied the claims, and hospital directors and doctors from the Gaza Health Ministry have repeatedly called for international investigators to enter Gaza and search the buildings.

With al-Shifa largely evacuated and still being searched by Israeli soldiers, another medical facility in northern Gaza was on the firing line: this time the Indonesian Hospital, where many wounded had been sent after al-Shifa ceased functioning.

Early Monday, the surgery department of the Indonesian hospital in north Gaza was targeted, killing 10 patients who had been under anesthetic, said Marwan al-Sultan, director of the hospital. “The department is completely destroyed,” he told The Washington Post. “There is shrapnel everywhere. There is shooting targeting all windows around the hospital.”

The Israel Defense Forces said militants had opened fire on its troops from within the hospital. “In response, IDF troops directly targeted the specific source of enemy fire. No shells were fired toward the hospital.”

The Gaza Health Ministry said on its Telegram channel that a total of 12 had been killed in the strike. Medical teams are refusing to leave while patients are there, the ministry said, even as attacks have intensified.

Sultan said the hospital is currently host to about 4,000 displaced people and has roughly 200 staff members. Of the 600 wounded who remain, 150 are incapable of walking independent of any help — men, women and children with fractures, lower limb amputations or orthopedic fixation devices.

“Patients and injured on their deathbeds are being targeted and they’re dying from tank shelling, not their injuries,” Mohammed Zaqout, director general of hospitals in Gaza, told Al Jazeera in an aired phone call. He said machinery was destroyed and ceilings had collapsed atop the thousands holed up in the medical infrastructure. “Many have died,” he said simply.

He said the nearby Kamal Adwan Hospital had also been targeted and it is no longer able to provide even basic first aid to the hundreds of injured. As with other hospitals, the Israelis have contacted the facility and told it to evacuate.

“Of course they don’t know where to evacuate to, with the presence of hundreds of injured. And there’s effectively no hospital it can evacuate to,” he said. “This is mass killing, this is extermination.”

Doctors Without Borders said its clinic in Gaza City had also come under fire in the morning, saying colleagues had reported a wall torn down and a fire engulfing part of the building, amid heavy fighting in the area.

“An Israeli tank was seen in the street,” the statement said. Four of the organization’s cars were burned, and a fifth was broken in two “as if crushed by a heavy-duty vehicle or a tank.” All cars, as well as the clinic, were clearly identified with its logo, it said.

“The cars destroyed are the same that were used to attempt the aborted evacuation of MSF staff and their families on Nov. 18,” the statement said, using the organization’s French initials. The evacuation failed when the convoy was fired on.

Though heavy fighting continues to rage in pockets around the north, Israeli officials have indicated that they could soon expand the campaign against Hamas to other parts of the Gaza Strip.

A surprise attack by Hamas and its allies on Oct. 7 killed at least 1,200 people in Israel, and at least 240 people were taken hostage. In the ensuing fighting, more than 11,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed, though hospitals say conditions no longer allow them to maintain the count.

Much of the population of northern Gaza has made the long trek south, almost always by foot, along a road dotted with death, decomposing bodies and Israeli tanks. Once they reach the south, however, they are still faced with bombardment, overwhelmed hospitals and shelters, and miserable encampments.

Strikes hit several residential neighborhoods in the southern city of Rafah in the early hours of the morning Monday and continued throughout the day. One airstrike killed 19 people from the same family, said a doctor at Mohammed Yousef al-Najar Hospital.

“Medical staff are still here but sadly, with no electricity, power, gas nor water nor medical supplies, what can medical teams do?” the doctor said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

When the bodies arrived at dawn, medical workers recognized two: a nurse and a technician who worked at the same hospital. They were killed along with the rest of their family, the doctor said: their parents, their children, their sister.

During the day, about a dozen bodies arrived at al-Aqsa Hospital in the central Gaza Strip, a witness told The Post, adding that they were victims of a strike that hit a school belonging to UNRWA — the U.N. agency handling Palestinian affairs — not far from the border with Egypt. UNRWA has not yet confirmed the attack.

Shelter is one of the most acute needs in the south now. One former medical worker who had left al-Shifa Hospital after it was ordered evacuated said he was staying in an UNRWA storage facility. As storms raged overnight, many of those outside the warehouse who had been sheltering in tents lost them to the wind. There were “no blankets and yesterday there was wind and heavy rain. People had their tents flying off and submerged by water,” the medical worker said.

People are sleeping on thin carpets or old clothes. The bathrooms are not fit for humans, he said. Numbers are increasing daily.

According to the U.N.’s humanitarian agency, OCHA, at least 1.7 million people have been displaced in Gaza, and overcrowding in shelters is contributing to disease. “On average, there is one shower unit for every 700 people and a single toilet for every 150 people,” it said in a statement Sunday.

There isn’t enough food to go around either, said the doctor, who declined to give his name to protect his identity, adding that each family is given cheese and three tuna cans every couple of days, regardless of their numbers. “There is nothing,” he said. “The shops have not had any goods reach them for almost two months.”

News sometimes trickles in from al-Shifa, the besieged hospital he left behind in the north. One of his colleagues, who was always jokingly asking him for help in finding a wife, was killed in an airstrike. “He wanted the war to be over soon. He had just graduated and did not see much of the world, so it was truly killing him inside.”

Hazem Balousha in Amman, Jordan, Louisa Loveluck in Jerusalem and Hajar Harb in London contributed to this report.

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