Patients die as Israeli troops storm Gaza hospital

Family members of Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks mourn over their bodies at the morgue of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza, on 15 February.

Ali Hamad APA images

Israeli troops escalated their attacks on a major hospital in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on Friday while negotiations toward a prisoner exchange and long-term truce between Israel and Hamas continued.

News reports confirmed that Egypt is clearing land in the northern Sinai to contain people displaced from Gaza in what appears to be a contingency plan for a mass exodus, which Cairo says it opposes.

The development is heightening fears that the threatened incursion into Rafah, where more than a million people are concentrated after Israel ordered the evacuation of other areas of Gaza, would entail not only a bloodbath but also a mass expulsion of Palestinians from their land.

The majority of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million Palestinians are already refugees following the ethnic cleansing around the time of Israel’s establishment in 1948. Israel prohibits those refugees from exercising their right of return, enshrined in international law, as part of its regime of apartheid facilitating the colonization of Palestinian land.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said this week that an escalation of violence in Rafah poses a “disastrous risk to civilian lives and infrastructure.”

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stated on Friday that escalated air strikes on Rafah and fears of an Israeli military ground operation “have reportedly led to the movement of people out of Gaza’s southernmost governorate toward Deir al-Balah” in the middle area of the territory.

Responding to an urgent intervention from South Africa, the International Court of Justice said on Friday that the “perilous situation” in Gaza, particularly in Rafah, “demands immediate and effective implementation of the provisional measures indicated by the court” late last month, but declined to issue any new orders.

Those measures call on Israel to prevent violations of the Genocide Convention, including killing or causing “serious bodily or mental harm” to Palestinians as a protected group and “deliberately inflicting … conditions of life calculated to bring about [their] physical destruction in whole or in part.”

The court also prohibited Israel from “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.”

Israel has ignored those measures, killing around 3,000 more Palestinians since the court issued its interim ruling, with the Palestinian health ministry on Friday giving a fatality figure of 28,775 since 7 October.

Hunger, thirst and disease

Thousands more are missing and presumed dead under the rubble while an untold number of Palestinians have died from hunger and disease in a secondary wave of mortality resulting from Israel’s military offensive and engineered famine.

Hussam Abu Safiya, a doctor at Kamal Adwan hospital in northern Gaza, said this week that several children had died in recent days due to thirst and malnutrition amid a general situation of hunger and spread of disease:

Nursing mothers are malnourished, the doctor added, affecting the health of their babies.

Al Jazeera footage from Kamal Adwan hospital shows emaciated child patients who were seriously injured after being targeted by Israeli aircraft while their family was looking for food.

“They are now in grave danger due to food and medical shortages,” according to Al Jazeera reporter Anas al-Sharif.

Food insecurity in Gaza City and northern Gaza “has especially reached an extremely critical state, given significant restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian assistance,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Friday.

“In Rafah, humanitarian conditions have become increasingly severe, with continued reports of people stopping aid trucks to take food,” the UN office added.

“Pattern of attacks” on hospitals

Israel continues to inflict conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of Palestinians in Gaza by attacking hospitals, a key feature of its military campaign across the territory.

The UN human rights office stated on Thursday that it was “deeply worried” by reports of Israel’s raid on Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, where thousands of displaced people had been sheltering.

Israeli troops stormed the medical complex – described by the head of the World Health Organization as the “backbone of the health system in southern Gaza” – on Thursday after cutting supplies for a week and ordering its evacuation on Tuesday.

“The raid appears to be part of a pattern of attacks by Israeli forces striking essential life-saving civilian infrastructure in Gaza, especially hospitals,” the UN human rights office added.

“With nearly 70,000 people reportedly injured during this conflict, and a nearly collapsed health system due to attacks on facilities and restrictions on essential humanitarian supplies, the impact on civilians is appalling,” the UN said.

Israeli troops ordered patients, including people in intensive care and nursery units, to a different building, “exposing patients to grave risks, including the risk of death for the most vulnerable,” the UN office added, echoing testimony from medical staff at Nasser Medical Complex sent to The Electronic Intifada.

Patients die due to lack of oxygen

Some of the most vulnerable have lost their lives during the siege on Nasser Medical Complex.

The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza said on Friday that five patients in intensive care had died after their oxygen supply had run out.

The World Health Organization said that it was attempting to gain access to the hospital, where “there are still critically injured and sick patients,” said Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesperson for the UN health body.

Earlier in the day, the health ministry reported that Israeli troops had detained a World Health Organization convoy carrying fuel, water and food outside the medical complex.

The ministry said later in the day that troops had detained and were interrogating a large number of medical personnel, patients and displaced people in the hospital’s maternity building, which they had turned into a military barracks.

Doctors Without Borders said that Israeli forces shelled Nasser Medical Complex on Thursday morning and its staff at the facility “reported a chaotic situation, with an undetermined number of people killed and injured.”

The organization said that one of its staff was detained by Israeli troops at a checkpoint where they were screening people leaving the hospital. They said that he “remains unaccounted for.”

On Friday, Medical Aid for Palestinians said that two women had given birth at Nasser Medical Complex “in dire conditions, without electricity, water, food and heating” and that Israeli troops forced women and children to move into the maternity building, “which is under military siege.”

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel said on Friday that the evacuation orders issued before the “devastating assault” on Nasser Medical Complex “did not provide any adequate responses to guarantee the safe transfer of patients and staff.”

“Beyond assurances that it will avoid harming evacuees,” the rights group added, “Israel must ensure the availability of intensive care ambulances and secure alternative medical facilities for the complex medical needs of these patients.”

The group said that “given the collapse of Gaza’s healthcare system,” the forced evacuation of Nasser Medical Complex “blatantly contradicts” the International Court of Justice’s order for Israel “to take immediate action to prevent catastrophe.”

The Israeli military said on Friday that it had arrested more than 20 people at Nasser Medical Complex who they claimed were involved in Hamas’ 7 October attack.

The military stated on its Telegram channel that its “precise and limited operation” at the complex is based on intelligence “that Hamas activity is being carried out from within the hospital.”

COGAT – an Israeli military unit that has played a central role in the comprehensive siege imposed on Gaza since 2007 and the resulting deterioration of the capacity of the healthcare system in the territory – alleged that Hamas had turned Nasser Medical Complex “into one of their terror command centers.”

Israel has made similar unsubstantiated claims regarding other health facilities it has attacked in Gaza over the past four months.

“Indirect biological warfare”

While Israel claims that its operations in Gaza are focused on eliminating Hamas, the pattern of attacks and the scale of destruction point to a deliberate campaign to wipe out civilian infrastructure in the territory, thus rendering it uninhabitable.

Beyond the tens of thousands killed and injured, “modern medical care has largely come to a standstill for 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza,” according to Annie Sparrow and Kenneth Roth in Foreign Policy.

They note that even before the current aggression, life expectancy in Gaza was “already 10 years shorter than people living a few miles away in Israel” while their “rates of neonatal, infant and maternal mortality [were] nearly five times higher.”

The authors add that “the combination of forced mass displacement, unhygienic conditions caused by interrupted sanitation services and sewage treatment, and interrupted vaccination will inevitably drive disease outbreaks in the future, functionally resulting in a form of indirect biological warfare.”

Humanitarian groups attacked

The French charity Doctors of the World said on Monday that its Gaza City offices, clearly marked and known by Israeli authorities to house a humanitarian organization, had been deliberately demolished days earlier.

A staff member of the humanitarian group had been sheltering in the offices along with his family, Doctors of the World said.

“They had boarded themselves in with office cabinets and didn’t dare go outside for fear of being shot at, while many civilians were killed around the building, which was surrounded by explosions,” according to the group.

Troops entered the offices in early February and “removed elderly people, women and children” and humiliated and degraded the men present by “forcing them to come out naked.”

The Doctors of the World offices were destroyed at an undetermined point after the forced evacuation.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society said on Friday that its hospital in Khan Younis was targeted by Israeli tank fire on Friday, resulting in severe damage but no injuries.

Tanks have been stationed outside Al-Amal Hospital for two weeks, “preventing the entry of any aid or logistical supplies,” the humanitarian group added.

The Red Crescent said that two of its doctors had been released after they were arrested by troops during a raid on Al-Amal one week earlier. Twelve Red Crescent team members “remain under arrest, including seven who were arrested at Al-Amal Hospital,” the humanitarian group said.

Nine elderly patients who couldn’t be evacuated were arrested along with their companions when the hospital was raided on 9 February, according to the group.

The Red Crescent rejected the Israeli military’s claim that it had arrested “20 terrorists” when it stormed the facility, calling the allegation “a poor attempt to justify their commission of war crimes.”

The Red Crescent announced on Friday that despite the siege on Al-Amal, its team successfully carried out an emergency cesarean section for a pregnant woman:

Biden pushing for “temporary ceasefire”

Also on Friday, US President Joe Biden said that he had “extensive conversations” with Benjamin Netanyahu in recent days in which he told the Israeli prime minister that “there has to be a temporary ceasefire to get the prisoners out, to get the hostages out.”

He reiterated his opposition to an invasion of Rafah. Biden’s administration opposes such an operation but says that it would not impose any material consequences on Israel – such as a halt of weapons transfers – if it moves forward.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is continuing to obstruct a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza at the UN Security Council as sought by Algeria.

Earlier this month, Netanyahu rejected a proposal put forward by Hamas for a months-long ceasefire and prisoner exchange, insisting that “continued military pressure is a necessary condition for the release of the hostages.”

Benny Gantz, the opposition leader and member of Netanyahu’s war cabinet, stated on Friday that “there will not be a ceasefire of even one day until the hostages are returned.”

He added that “either the hostages will be returned, or we will extend the fighting to Rafah.”

That same day, Abu Obeida, the spokesperson for the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, said that there have been many losses of its captives and those who remain alive are in “extremely difficult conditions.”

He added that “we warned dozens of times about the dangers to which their hostages are being exposed. We didn’t want the situation to reach this stage, but [Israel’s] leadership ignored us.”

Last Tuesday, the Israeli military’s chief spokesperson said that 31 of the 136 captives remaining in Gaza were dead.

This week, Israeli media reported on an intelligence ministry document stating that Hamas will survive as a fighting force after the war.

“There won’t be absolute victory” as promised by Netanyahu, according to Ilana Dayan, a journalist with Israel’s Channel 12 outlet, which first reported on the intelligence ministry document.




It is past time for all of goof will to demand or enact a full blockade of Israel, everything and everyone going or coming until it ends the genocide, withdraws officials and military from the Occupied Territories, having forfeited in its 76 years of contempt for international law Geneva Conventions obligations of an occupier, any justification for continuance of the Occupation. Simultaneous announcement that the UN is sending in food, medicine, and fuel with military guards and air protection, that further genocide will not be tolerated.

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Maureen Clare Murphy

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Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.