At least five patients dead after Israeli army raid on Nasser Hospital

Army arrests 20 people in the raid, saying some were involved in Hamas’s October 7 attacks on Israel.

Injured Palestinians, including children, are brought to Nasser Hospital to receive medical treatment in Khan Yunis [File: Ahmed Zagout/Anadolu Agency]Published On 16 Feb 202416 Feb 2024

Israel’s incursion into Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip has led to the deaths of at least five patients after electricity was severed and oxygen supplies cut, according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health.

The hospital is currently the largest functioning medical facility in Gaza and had been under Israeli siege for weeks.

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“We hold the Israeli occupation forces responsible for the lives of patients and staff, considering that the complex is now under their full control,” the ministry said.

In a statement on Telegram, it added that two women gave birth in “inhumane” conditions and Israeli soldiers forced women and children to leave the maternity unit without any belongings.

Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) said its staff have also been forced to flee as a result of the incursion.

“The Israeli forces set up a checkpoint for people as they left the compound, and one of our colleagues was arrested at this checkpoint. We call for preserving his safety and protecting his dignity,” MSF added.

The Israeli army said it had arrested more than 20 “terrorists” based on “intelligence indicating terrorist activity by Hamas in the hospital”.

Reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands said Daniel Hagari, the spokesman for the Israeli military, alleged that some of those detained were involved in the October 7 attacks inside Israel, including an ambulance driver.

“The Israeli military also believes there are bodies of Israeli captives somewhere on the grounds of Nasser Hospital, and that is another reason troops are involved in the ‘precise and limited operation’ at the health facility,” Challands said, adding that the military also said it found weapons, including mortars and grenades, among people arrested.

Hamas has denied any presence inside Nasser Hospital.

“We have repeatedly said the policy of our Palestinian resistance is and remains to distance public and civilian institutions and the health sector from any military activity,” Hamas said in a statement.

“We have asked the United Nations and relevant organisations on several occasions to bring an international committee to examine the hospitals and prove that Israel’s narrative is a lie. But our demands have not been heard.”

Israel has previously claimed that several hospitals in Gaza have been used as Hamas bases.

However, since destroying large parts of Gaza City’s al-Shifa Hospital during an attack last year, Israeli evidence has fallen short of its claims that the medical facility was used as a Hamas headquarters. The attack led to the deaths of Palestinian patients and staff at the hospital as well as some of the thousands of people who had been sheltering there,

Instead, its repeated attacks on hospitals have been described by human rights groups as “unlawful” with Human Rights Watch calling for them to be “investigated as war crimes”, and South Africa alleging at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague that attacks on Gaza’s healthcare system were evidence of “genocidal acts” committed by Israel.

‘We stand helpless’

For patients and staff stranded in the hospital raid, the situation is “catastrophic”, according to Dr Nahed Abu Taima, director of the Nasser Medical Complex.

“Electric power was cut off from the entire medical complex. Many patients in ICUs and those on oxygen supply and also those on dialysis are left fighting for their lives since 3am [02:00 GMT],” Taima told Al Jazeera on Friday.

“We stand helpless, unable to provide any form of medical assistance to the patients inside the hospital or the victims flooding into the hospital every single minute.”

Reporting from Rafah, Al Jazeera’s Hani Mahmoud said the tragedies unfolding at the hospital are also “a continuation of the psychological warfare” against Palestinians, who are finding that no place is safe in the Gaza Strip.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it is trying to get access to Nasser Hospital.

“There is an urgent need to deliver fuel to ensure the continuation of the provision of life-saving services. … We are trying to get access because people who are still in Nasser Medical Complex need assistance,” WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said.

“WHO has warned many times that depriving patients of life-saving care and forcing the movement of the sick and injured could lead to the deterioration of their condition or even death. Patients’ health must be prioritised, and uninterrupted care in a safe environment must be ensured,” he added.

Dr James Smith, an emergency room physician who previously worked in Gaza hospitals, said that what Israel’s military is doing at Nasser Hospital “is a complete neglect of the rules that guide conduct during armed conflict”.

Noting an interim ruling last month from the ICJ that Israel must do all it can to prevent genocide in Gaza, Smith told Al Jazeera that this also means the international community must do more to halt Israel’s war crimes.

“That [ICJ ruling] places immediate moral, political and legal obligations on all world powers, particularly those that up until this moment continue to finance and provide diplomatic support for the Israeli state.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies