'Catastrophic and alarming situation’: Gaza medics describe conditions at hospital raided by Israel

People stand around craters caused by Israeli bombardment in Rafah on the southern Gaza Strip. Picture: Said Khatib/ AFP

People stand around craters caused by Israeli bombardment in Rafah on the southern Gaza Strip. Picture: Said Khatib/ AFP

Published Feb 15, 2024


The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said patients and medics were enduring "dire and frightening conditions" at a major hospital raided by Israeli soldiers on Thursday.

Hundreds of medics and patients remain inside the Nasser Hospital in the main southern city of Khan Yunis after thousands of displaced civilians who had sought refuge in its grounds were forced to leave by Israeli troops.

"Nasser medical complex is witnessing a catastrophic and alarming situation, as a result of the lack of medical resources," the health ministry said.

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 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.

The Israeli military said it was carrying out a "precise and limited operation" at the hospital, which is a major health facility.

Citing "credible intelligence" without publishing evidence, a military statement said "there may be bodies of our hostages in the Nasser hospital facility".

Footage circulating on social media, which AFP could not independently verify, 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.

'Severe' water shortage

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".

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

Hamas denies the accusation and the Israeli military has shown no concrete proof of such command centres.

The World Health Organization 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 Wednesday he was "alarmed" by reports from Nasser Hospital, which he described as the "backbone of the health system in southern Gaza".

The agency has been denied access to the facility in recent days and has lost contact with staff there, Tedros said on X.

Israel's military said its "mission is to ensure that the Nasser Hospital continues its important function of treating Gazan patients".

An unprecedented Hamas attack on October 7 resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Palestinian militants also took around 250 captives. Around 130 of them remain in Gaza, 29 of whom are believed to be dead, according to Israeli officials.

Earlier this week, Israeli forces rescued two hostages from the far southern city of Rafah during bombing that killed about 100 people, according to Gaza's health ministry.

Since the war began at least 28,663 people have been killed in Gaza, most of them women, children and adolescents, according to the ministry.