After a week of threats and “warning rocket” fire last Friday on the al-Wafa rehab and geriatric hospital in eastern Gaza City, the Israeli army heavily shelled the building just hours ago and caregivers are scrambling to evacuate the most vulnerable patients.
I spoke with Dr. Basman Alashi, the executive director of al-Wafa, at a little past 10pm Palestine time today, Thursday, about an hour after Israel started to bomb the hospital.
“It started just before nine, they started it and it continued every other minute, firing at the hospital. They started on the fourth floor, continued to the third, then from the back of the hospital, then to the side, then to the front, then they cut the electricity, we have fuel everywhere. I don’t know the extent of the damage but it reached a point where my nurses were unable to function, unable to stand, unable to help the patients,” Alashi said.
Since last week, international solidarity activists have maintained a constant presence inside the hospital in an effort to stop Israel from attacking it. According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, as of Thursday, Israel’s missile strikes and bombing attacks have killed 237 Palestinians and have wounded more than 1,770 since the assault began 11 days ago.
Joe Catron, activist and contributor to The Electronic Intifada, who has been staying at the hospital in shifts, tweeted that the al-Wafa hospital staff was able to safely and quickly evacuate the patients, and everyone has survived Israel’s bombing attacks.
Nora Barrows-Friedman Hi, Basman, I’m so glad I got you and that you’re safe. I’ve been hearing reports that the hospital has come under heavy Israeli attack?
Basman Alashi: Yes, it is, and they have destroyed much of it, and we are in the process of moving patients out. Many of my nurses are unable to stand up on their feet because of the tragedy they are facing, even the young men have not experienced such horrific and terrorizing bombing by the Israelis. They left the patients helpless because they are unable even to help themselves. I had to send ambulances and outside help to the hospital, so they can help in moving these patients, the paralyzed patients, out from their beds to another hospital. And right now, I am in the office and the Israeli army called me through the Red Cross, asking how much time we need to evacuate the building so they can halt the bombing.
And I gave them the message of two hours, I returned the call to the Red Cross [saying] two hours, so I believe the Red Cross is cooperating with them to destroy … an internationally-prohibited act. They are helping them in this act, and I don’t understand.
NBF: Dr. Alashi, can you talk about when the bombing started, what happened inside the hospital?
BA: It started just before nine, they started it and it continued every other minute, firing at the hospital. They started on the fourth floor, continued to the third, then from the back of the hospital, then to the side, then to the front, then they cut the electricity, we have fuel everywhere, I don’t know the extent of the damage but it reached a point where my nurses were unable to function, unable to stand, unable to help the patients. So they left the hospital, and right now we are in the process of evacuating my patients to help with them and the handicapped.
NBF: Where can these patients go, I understand that the hospitals around Gaza are already full?
BA: It’s called Mujamma al-Sahaba al-Tibbi, it’s not a hospital, but it has private clinics, it’s a clinic and offices. I am there right now, and I need to go to check on my patients.