A massive blast at al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza killed nearly 500 Palestinians, triggering global outrage at the slaughter of people, many of whom were taking shelter from nearly two weeks of relentless Israeli bombing of the besieged enclave.
Palestinian officials have accused Israel of bombing the hospital while Tel Aviv has blamed Gaza-based armed groups for the horrific explosion that has clouded US President Joe Biden’s diplomatic mission to the Middle East. Palestinian armed groups have denied any role.
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As tensions continue to rise, here is what to know about the hospital:
Where is al-Ahli Arab Hospital?
The al-Ahli Arab Hospital is located in Gaza’s Old City between the Shujaiya and Zeitoun neighbourhoods in Gaza City.
It is situated just less than 3km from al-Shifa Hospital, the largest public hospital in the enclave of 2.3 million people. The facility is also near several historical sites in Gaza, including the Great Omari Mosque, known as Gaza’s Great Mosque and two of Gaza’s churches: St Philip the evangelist chapel and St Porphyrius Church.
The Great Mosque, which stands just 300 metres (0.2 miles) from the hospital, is both the largest and oldest mosque in the 10km (6 miles) by 41km (25 miles) in the Strip – one of two Palestinian territories, the other being the occupied West Bank. The area is also in proximity to Gaza’s historic Zawiyam Market.
Al-Ahli is one of the oldest hospitals in Gaza founded in 1882, and it serves more than 45,000 patients each year.
At what time did the strike take place?
It’s unclear, but according to the Israeli military at 6:59pm (3:59 GMT) there were reports of an explosion at the hospital.
“The devastation witnessed, coupled with the sacrilegious targeting of the church, strikes at the very core of human decency. We assert unequivocally that this is deserving international condemnation and retribution,” the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem, which runs the hospital, said in a statement.
In the first hours after the blast, a Gaza civil defence chief said 300 people were killed, while health ministry sources put the figure at 471 and 28 in critical condition.
Where were the victims taken after the explosion in the hospital?
Large numbers of injured people were brought to al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.
Al Jazeera footage from the scene showed medics and civilians recovering bodies with white bags or blankets. Bloodstains and multiple torched cars were visible in the darkened hospital courtyard.
What else do we know about the al-Ahli Arab Hospital?
The hospital is the oldest and the only Christian hospital in Gaza, according to the Jerusalem diocese’s website.
It’s one of the 22 hospitals in northern Gaza struggling to respond to the recent crisis that has seen 3,300 Palestinians killed and more than 13,000 wounded as Israel has targeted residential infrastructures.
As well as running a programme for breast cancer detection, the hospital also provides “free community clinic with transportation from outlying neighbourhoods, clinic for underweight and manourished children, physical and occupational therapy”.
According to reports by The Wall Street Journal, the hospital “recently got a new cancer ward with funds coming mainly from the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem in Texas”. It’s currently headed by Suhaila Tarazi.
How many health facilities have been attacked so far in October?
There have been over 115 attacks on healthcare in Palestine since the start of the conflict on October 7, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
At least 20 hospitals in Gaza City and North Gaza and one hospital in Rafah have received repeated evacuation orders from the Israeli military, and 77 attacks have been documented in the West Bank, 43 of these attacks have caused physical violence to health teams.
“Gaza’s medical infrastructure has been irreparably damaged and healthcare providers are working in a dire situation with limited access to medical supplies and conditions that do not allow them to provide timely and quality healthcare,” said Tlaleng Mofokeng, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health.