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Gaza’s Nasser hospital: Fears for patients as Israeli raid continues

In Europe
February 16, 2024

The Israeli military says its special forces are still inside the Nasser hospital in Gaza as fears grow for patients at the site.

Israel launched what it described as a “precise and limited mission” there on Thursday. The military says it has caught “dozens of terror suspects”.

Hamas dismissed that claim as “lies”. The Hamas-run health ministry said five people died after generators failed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said the facility urgently needed fuel.

It said the fuel was vital to “ensure the continuation of the provision of life-saving services”.

Tarik Jasarevic, a WHO spokesperson, said there were now reports that the orthopaedic unit at the hospital, in the city of Khan Younis, had been damaged.

“That obviously reduces the ability to provide the urgent medical care,” he said, adding there were still “critically injured and sick patients” at the hospital.

“More degradation to the hospital means more lives being lost.”

Nasser is the main hospital in southern Gaza, and is one of the few still functioning. It has been the scene of intense fighting between the IDF and Hamas for days.

An injured man who had to leave the hospital said the conditions there were dire.

“Since they besieged it, there is no water or food,” Raed Abed told the Associated Press.

“Garbage is widespread, and sewage has flooded the emergency department.”

The hospital’s director, Nahed Abu-Teima, told BBC Arabic the situation inside was “catastrophic and very dangerous”.

The Hamas-run health ministry reported on Friday that the five people who died at the hospital did so after the electricity generators went down and oxygen could not be provided.

The deaths have not been independently verified.

On Wednesday, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) ordered thousands of displaced people who had been sheltering there to leave.

Images, verified by the BBC, showed medical staff rushing patients on stretchers through a corridor filled with smoke or dust.

The IDF believes Hamas has been using hospitals and other civilian bases as shields for military activities.

“We can’t give them [Hamas] a free pass, we have to make sure that they are pursued and hunted down,” IDF spokesperson Lt Col Peter Lerner told the BBC.

He said the military had been making “a huge effort to evacuate people from the hospital in order to get them out of harm’s way”, denying claims that civilians had been targeted.

The IDF said that among those it had captured at the hospital were 20 Hamas members who were part of the 7 October attacks on Israel.

It also said it had found weapons, including grenades, at the facility.

The military is also searching for the bodies of Israeli hostages which it said intelligence suggests might be hidden in the hospital.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said Israeli tanks were targeting the nearby Al-Amal hospital, “resulting in very severe damage in two nursing rooms”.

They wrote on social media that nobody had been hurt.

Intense hostilities have been reported around the hospital recently. The PRCS said it was raided last week after some 8,000 displaced people and patients complied with an order to evacuate.

On Friday, they said that two doctors who were arrested during the raid had been released, while 12 other staff remained in custody.

Israel launched its military offensive after waves of Hamas fighters burst through Israel’s border on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people – mainly civilians – and taking 253 others back to Gaza as hostages.

The Hamas-run health ministry says more than 28,700 people, mainly women and children – have been killed in Israel’s campaign.

Israel is facing increasing international pressure to show restraint but efforts to negotiate an end to the fighting have not yet yielded any results.

A senior Palestinian official familiar with the ceasefire talks told the BBC that the gap between the negotiating parties was still wide and there were disagreements over many of the proposed provisions.

Senior officials from the US, Israel, Egypt and Qatar have been meeting in Cairo this week to try and hammer out a deal.

The official said that the main issue remains the disagreement with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over what happens the day after the war is over. The US want to rely on a strengthened Palestinian Authority, while Israel is against having a single administration in charge of the West Bank and Gaza.

Another disagreement is over Israel’s aim of completely destroying Hamas, which the US thinks will be difficult to achieve anytime soon.

The US is said to be trying to pressure the two sides to reach a long period of calm to make it difficult for the two sides to return to fighting again.

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