‘Bloodbath’: Israel continues to target Gaza hospitals and civilians

No let up in Israel’s onslaught despite mounting calls for a truce and aid deliveries.

A man inspects the damage in a room following Israeli bombardment at Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip
A man inspects the damage in a room following Israeli bombardment at Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on December 17, 2023 [Stringer/AFP]

Despite growing international pressure for a respite, Israel is continuing to bombard Gaza’s health facilities and residential areas.

Israeli air raids on Sunday and Monday maintained the focus on hospitals and civilian neighbourhoods in the enclave, a tactic that has only encouraged further calls from around the world for a ceasefire in the besieged Palestinian territory as civilian causalities mount.

Mass casualties have been reported following strikes on the Jabalia and Nuseirat refugee camps. Israeli artillery shelling targeted multiple residences in the Shujayea, Tuffah and Daraj neighbourhoods in Gaza City.

Continuous shooting has been reported at the entrance to al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. At least 26 Palestinians were killed in an attack on the hospital earlier, Al Jazeera journalists reported.

The Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis in southern Gaza has been repeatedly targeted over the past 48 hours. An Israeli tank shell hit the maternity building on Sunday, killing a 13-year-old girl, named Dina Abu Mehsen, and injuring several others, according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health.

A bomb fell near the building but did not explode, causing a great deal of panic and injuring three people, according to Al Jazeera’s Hani Mahmoud, reporting from Rafah.

In a statement to Al Jazeera, Gaza Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qudra denounced Israel for trying to “eliminate” the besieged enclave’s health sector.

“What the occupation is doing is part of the scenario that began in northern Gaza from the Shifa complex,” he said.

“Targeting Nasser Medical Complex is part of the occupation’s policy to eliminate the health sector and would bring down the health system in the southern Gaza Strip,” he added.

The deadliest ever Gaza war began with attacks by Hamas, which rules the enclave, on October 7, when the group killed 1,139 people and abducted about 250, according to updated Israeli figures.

Gaza’s Health Ministry says more than 18,800 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israel’s campaign in Gaza. It said more than 100 were killed in Israeli attacks on Sunday, while dozens more are reported to have died so far on Monday.

World Health Organization described the situation at al-Shifa Hospital – once the cornerstone of the territory’s healthcare system – as a “bloodbath” as hundreds of injured patients sheltered inside with “new patients arriving every minute”.

The United Nations agency said the hospital, which was occupied by Israeli forces earlier in the war, is providing only basic trauma stabilisation, has no blood for transfusions and hardly any staff to care for a constant flow of patients, after a visit to deliver medicines and surgical supplies to the facility.

Dr Rana Hajjeh, from WHO’s Cairo office, told Al Jazeera: “What they saw was a complete horror scene. The injured patients are all over the floor, they are being sutured on the floor. There are not enough beds or stretchers. There isn’t any pain medication. They’re basically just bleeding on the floor.”

Thousands of displaced people are using the hospital building and grounds as a shelter during a severe shortage of water and food, Hajjeh said.

‘Extremely worried’

Israeli soldiers raided the Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza over several days earlier in the week and killed dozens before evacuating wounded patients and medical staff to the hospital grounds, according to the health authorities in the enclave.

Citing the ministry’s reports, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said earlier this week he was “extremely worried” about the hospital’s situation.

The WHO said it was urgently gathering information at the hospital, where Gaza authorities said Israeli forces this week used a bulldozer to smash through the perimeter of a site Israel has said was used by Hamas fighters.

The Israeli military said the hospital was being used as a Hamas “command and control centre” and that soldiers had detained about 80 fighters before leaving the site on Saturday.

Earlier in the week, authorities in Gaza said some 70 medical staff were detained by Israel in the raid.

The group has denied using Kamal Adwan or other hospitals for activities. Israel has also said al-Shifa had been used by Hamas, before occupying it last month.

Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila has called for an “urgent probe” after Israeli forces were accused of crushing Palestinians, including wounded patients, using bulldozers in the yard of the hospital.

Only four hospitals of 24 working in north Gaza before the war with Israel began have even partial service, and three of those are barely functioning, WHO said.

Israeli raids on the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza killed 110 Palestinians on Sunday, according to the Health ministry in the enclave.

Another attack on the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza killed at least 25 people overnight, according to the Al Jazeera team at the site.

Strikes and raids are reported to have continued on Monday.

Calls for truce

The Israeli government is under growing pressure from the international community to pause the fighting and do more to protect civilians.

The United Nations Security Council is set to vote on Monday on a new resolution, drafted by the United Arab Emirates, calling for a truce and delivery of aid in Gaza.

The UN estimates that 1.9 million Palestinians in Gaza – about 80 percent of the population – have been displaced by the war.

“I would not be surprised if people start dying of hunger, or a combination of hunger, disease, weak immunity,” said Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna called for an “immediate and durable” truce on a visit to Israel on Sunday.

Germany and the United Kingdom also joined the calls for a ceasefire over the weekend, and Israeli protesters demanded the government relaunch talks with Hamas on releasing more hostages after three were mistakenly killed by Israeli troops while waving a white flag.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was expected to press Israel to wind down major combat operations as he arrived in Tel Aviv on Monday. He will also visit Qatar, which brokered a previous truce deal.


Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies