GAZA CITY HOSPITALS
During the Israel-Hamas conflict, thousands of Palestinians sought refuge from the violence at Gaza City’s main hospital. However, due to reported strikes near the hospital, many fled south.
This adds to the increasing number of people escaping the intense urban fighting in the northern region, which has also affected other hospitals. Regrettably, Gaza officials confirmed that the death toll in the territory has now exceeded 11,000.
As Israel intensifies its assault on the besieged Gaza Strip, the search for safety grows increasingly desperate. The Israel army alleges that Hamas’ military infrastructure is situated amidst Gaza City’s hospitals and neighborhoods and claims to have established its central command center in and beneath the largest hospital, Shifa. However, both the militant group and Shifa’s staff deny these allegations.
Israel has committed to eliminate Hamas following its unexpected intrusion on October 7th, resulting in a loss of at least 1,200 lives.
According to Israel, over the past two days, more than 100,000 Palestinians have evacuated to the south. However, despite their efforts, they continue to be exposed to bombings and severe conditions.
The recent attacks near or on four hospitals in northern Gaza highlight the difficult situation faced by the tens of thousands seeking refuge in these facilities in hopes of finding safety.
BATTLES AROUND HOSPITALS
According to Ashraf al-Qidra, the spokesperson at the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, Shifa Hospital was struck by at least three strikes in the courtyard and the obstetrics department for several hours on early Friday.
The courtyard’s video captured the disturbing sequence of events: the jarring sound of incoming fire, jolting residents awake in their improvised shelters, immediately followed by urgent calls for an ambulance. Amidst the scene of bloodstains, one man could be seen writhing and screaming on the ground, with his leg seemingly severed.
Al-Qidra attributed the attack to Israel, but this claim couldn’t be verified independently. The Israeli army stated that a strike at Shifa occurred due to militants mistakenly targeting their nearby troops.
In recent weeks, a significant number of displaced Palestinians, estimated to reach as many as 60,000 according to the Health Ministry, have sought shelter in the Shifa complex.
Following the overnight strikes, there was a sudden mass departure of the displaced individuals. Around 10 a.m., a considerable group packed their belongings and started making their way towards the south, as five eyewitnesses who spoke to The Associated Press reported.
According to Ashraf al-Qidra, the spokesperson for the Health Ministry under Hamas, over 30,000 individuals who have been displaced, including medical workers and patients, are still present in the hospital.
Wafaa Abu Hajajj, a journalist who reached the southern region after departing from the hospital on Friday, mentioned that those who could not walk or were uncertain about their destinations remained behind.
According to 32-year-old Haneen Abu Awda, who was receiving treatment at Shifa for injuries caused by a previous strike on his house, the recent strikes were intended to instill fear among people, and unfortunately, they succeeded. The situation quickly became overwhelming.
Simultaneously, Shifa Hospital faces thousands of wounded individuals, all while operating with limited power and scarce medical supplies.
Gaza Health Ministry
On Friday, the Gaza Health Ministry released a video showing distressing scenes within the hospital. Limp children’s bodies were lying on stretchers, some lifeless and others struggling to breathe.
Due to a shortage of supplies, some patients couldn’t receive treatment, and additional individuals were scattered on the floor. In one instance, a man was seen gasping for air. Mohammed Abu Selmia, the director of Shifa, stated that Israel required the facility’s evacuation, but finding alternative accommodations for many patients posed a challenge.
The person speaking to Al Jazeera television asked,
“Where will we evacuate them?”According to the Health Ministry, there was one fatality and multiple injuries at Shifa. Furthermore, the ministry stated that two people were killed in another strike near the Nasr Medical Center.
Abu Selmia also mentioned that at least 25 people lost their lives when a strike hit a Gaza City school where people were seeking shelter.
WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION.
The attack on Nasr resulted in the closure of its children’s hospital, which was the sole remaining specialized pediatric care facility in northern Gaza, according to Margaret Harris, spokesperson for the World Health Organization.
The fate of the patients, including children undergoing dialysis and relying on life support, remains unknown. Evacuating them safely was deemed impossible due to the nature of their medical conditions.
Israel’s military spokesperson, Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, acknowledges the sensitivity surrounding hospitals and emphasizes that Israeli forces approach them cautiously. He confirms that Israel does not intentionally target hospitals, but if militants are observed firing from these locations, necessary actions will be taken to neutralize the threat.
Additionally, Israel has presented video evidence demonstrating the utilization of schools, mosques, and hospitals by Hamas as shields for their military operations.
The U.N. Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has repeatedly stated that Hamas uses civilians as “human shields.” However, it is essential to note that this does not justify Israel’s targeting of buildings where militants hide among civilians.
Guterres emphasizes the significance of adhering to international humanitarian law, which prioritizes the protection of civilians, as well as hospitals, schools, and homes.
CIVILIANS FLEE SOUTH
On Friday, many evacuees migrated from the northern area, including Shifa, along Salah al-Din road, which spans the entire length of the Gaza Strip, and finally reached the central city of Deir al-Balah.
Due to the lack of fuel for transportation, these individuals had to traverse the distance on foot, enduring hours of walking while the sound of explosions resonated nearby. Among the evacuees were wounded individuals and elderly citizens.
They experienced mixed emotions as they arrived, including relief, anger, and despair. They were hungry, exhausted, and in need of assistance.
During their attempt to escape Gaza City and evade the ongoing shelling, Reem Asant, aged 50, witnessed lifeless bodies strewn across the streets.
Amidst this chaos, one man, Abu Yousef, raised his voice, exclaiming about the tragic deaths of children in hospitals, the countless women losing their lives each day, and the devastating collapse of houses upon innocent civilians.
These profound events prompt questions about the presence of human rights, the involvement of the United Nations, the role of the United States, the intervention of the International Criminal Court, and the global community’s response.
The Israeli military has announced an extension of the existing six-hour window for civilians to evacuate northern Gaza along Salah al-Din. This route has been in use since last weekend. Additionally, a second route along the coastal road has been opened following an agreement made public by the White House the previous day.
According to military spokesman Jonathan Conricus, more than two-thirds of the population of Gaza, which amounts to 2.3 million people, have fled their homes since the beginning of the war. Israel has estimated that over 850,000 individuals out of the 1.1 million residing in northern Gaza have left.
RISING DEATH TOLLS
According to the Gaza Health Ministry, over 11,070 Palestinians have lost their lives since the war started, with two-thirds of them being women and minors. The ministry does not distinguish between civilian and militant casualties. Additionally, there are reports of 2,650 people missing.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed concern on Friday, stating that a significant number of Palestinians have suffered and lost their lives. While recent efforts by Israel to reduce harm to civilians are seen as positive, they are still inadequate.
Assistant Secretary of State Barbara Leaf informed U.S. lawmakers that there is a possibility of the death toll being higher than the tally provided by the Gaza Health Ministry.
Israeli officials state that at least 1,200 people have been killed in Israel, primarily during the initial Hamas attack, and 41 Israeli soldiers have lost their lives in Gaza since the ground offensive commenced. The Foreign Ministry had previously estimated the civilian death toll at 1,400 but did not provide a reason for the revision on Friday.
According to an Israeli official, the number had been updated after an extensive and meticulous process of identifying bodies, many of which were severely damaged or burned during the Hamas rampage. The final death toll is subject to change, as stated by the official, who spoke anonymously, until an official announcement is made.
Furthermore, it is reported that nearly 240 individuals abducted by Hamas from Israel are still being held captive.
Palestinian militants have persistently launched rockets into Israel, resulting in an attack on Tel Aviv that wounded at least two individuals on Friday, according to Yossi Elkabetz, an Israeli paramedic. Hamas has claimed responsibility.
Approximately 250,000 Israelis have been compelled to evacuate from communities near Gaza and along the northern border with Lebanon, as Israeli forces and Hezbollah militants have engaged in repeated exchanges of fire.