Palestinians leave one of Gaza’s main hospitals after weeks of heavy fighting

14 February 2024, 17:54

Devastation in Rafah
Israel Palestinians Rafah Family. Picture: PA

The medical facility in Khan Younis had been left isolated as Israeli forces battled Hamas.

Palestinians have begun evacuating the main hospital in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, according to videos shared by medics.

Weeks of heavy fighting had isolated the medical facility and claimed the lives of several people inside it.

The war between Israel and Hamas, now in its fifth month, has devastated Gaza’s health sector, with less than half of its hospitals even partially functioning as scores of people are killed and wounded in daily bombardments.

Israel accuses the militants of using hospitals and other civilian buildings as cover.

Khan Younis is the main target of a rolling ground offensive that Israel has said will soon be expanded to Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah.

Some 1.4 million people – more than half the territory’s population – are crammed into tent camps and overflowing apartments and shelters in the town on the Egyptian border.

The videos showed dozens of Palestinians carrying their belongings in sacks and making their way out of the Nasser Hospital complex.

A doctor wearing green hospital scrubs walked ahead of the crowd, some of whom were carrying white flags.

The Israeli military said it had opened a secure route to allow civilians to leave the hospital, while medics and patients could remain inside. Troops have been ordered to “prioritise the safety of civilians, patients, medical workers, and medical facilities during the operation”, it said.

Air strike damage
Palestinians inspect the rubble of a family house, which was struck by an Israeli air strike during an operation to rescue two hostages in Rafah (AP)

The military had ordered the evacuation of the hospital and surrounding areas last month.

But as with other health facilities, medics said patients were unable to safely leave or be relocated, and thousands of people displaced by fighting elsewhere remained there.

Palestinians say nowhere is safe in the besieged territory, as Israel continues to carry out strikes in all parts of it.

The Gaza health ministry said last week that Israeli snipers on surrounding buildings were preventing people from entering or leaving the hospital.

It said 10 people have been killed inside the complex over the past week, including three shot and killed on Tuesday.

Israel Palestinians
Israeli soldiers operate inside the Gaza Strip (AP)

The ministry says around 300 medical staff were treating some 450 patients, including people wounded in strikes. It says 10,000 displaced people were sheltering in the facility.

The war erupted after Hamas launched a surprise attack into Israel on October 7, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 captive.

More than 100 hostages were released during a week-long ceasefire in November in return for 240 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

Israel responded to the attack by launching one of the deadliest and most destructive air and ground offensives in recent history.

At least 28,576 Palestinians have been killed, mostly women and children, according to Gaza’s health ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants.

That includes more than 100 bodies brought to hospitals in the last 24 hours. Around 68,000 people have been injured in the war, including around 11,000 in need of evacuation for urgent treatment, according to the ministry.

Around 80% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been driven from their homes, large areas in northern Gaza have been completely destroyed and a humanitarian crisis has left a quarter of the population starving.

The fighting also threatens to trigger a wider conflict. Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group has traded fire with Israeli forces on a daily basis along the border.

Israel Palestinians
Israeli soldiers drive towards the Gaza Strip (AP)

A rocket attack on Wednesday wounded at least eight people when one of the projectiles hit a home in the northern Israeli town of Safed.

International efforts to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas suffered a setback on Wednesday as Israel reportedly recalled its negotiating team and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Hamas of hobbling the high-stakes negotiations by sticking to “delusional” demands.

Mr Netanyahu’s remarks came hours after local media reported that he had ordered an Israeli delegation not to continue talks in Cairo, raising concerns over the fate of the negotiations and sparking criticism from the families of the remaining captives.

The relatives of the hostages said Mr Netanyahu’s decision amounted to a “death sentence” for their loved ones.

The mediation efforts are being steered by the US, Egypt and Qatar.

“In Cairo, Israel did not receive any new proposal from Hamas on the release of our captives,” Mr Netanyahu said in a statement. “A change in Hamas’ positions will allow progress in the negotiations.”

Hamas officials had no immediate comment.

By Press Association

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