World News: Deadly Strike Rocks a Hospital in Gaza, Where Few Are Still Working
Another hospital in the Gaza Strip came under fire on Monday, as the World Health Organization warned that the enclave’s devastated health system had largely collapsed, with none of its functioning hospitals capable of handling complicated medical cases.
At least 12 people were killed and dozens of others were wounded in the latest attack, on the Indonesian Hospital in the far northern city of Beit Lahia, according to two hospital staff members and the Gazan health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
It came less than a week after Israeli forces raided Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa in Gaza City, about five miles to the west, in an effort to capture and expose what it says were extensive Hamas operations within and beneath the hospital, including underground bunkers, a command center and a network of tunnels. Hamas and hospital administrators deny that the militant group used the grounds of Al-Shifa or other hospitals for military operations.
The source of the strike on the Indonesian Hospital could not be independently verified, as heavy fighting raged around it. The Gazan health ministry blamed Israeli forces for the attack.
The Israeli military said in a statement that its troops had come under fire overnight “from within” the hospital. It said it had “directly targeted the specific source of enemy fire,” but that “no shells were fired toward the hospital.” The statement did not elaborate on the seeming contradiction.
International groups, including the World Health Organization, a United Nations agency, have repeatedly urged that hospitals not be targeted in the war between Israel and Hamas. The group’s director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said he was “appalled” by reports of the latest strike.
“Health workers and civilians should never have to be exposed to such horror, and especially while inside a hospital,” he said in a statement on Monday.
At a news conference, two W.H.O. officials painted a dire picture of the health care system in Gaza after weeks of fighting. They said hospitals in the north could not take any more patients and nearly all had stopped operating as health care centers. More are functioning in the south, they said, but more like community clinics without the capacity to treat complex injuries or perform advanced surgeries.
Michael Ryan, executive director of the W.H.O.’s Health Emergencies Program, told reporters that “only 10 of the 36 hospitals that were functioning are now functioning in any way at all, and even they are struggling to function.”
He warned that the dire conditions in Gaza, with 1.7 million people displaced from their homes and most of the population now crowded into the south, significantly raised the risk of epidemic disease, with people sheltering in tight quarters or tent camps without adequate food and hygiene.
The strike at the Indonesian Hospital only added to the sense of crisis. The hospital, which was financed by the Indonesian government and operated by the Gaza Health Ministry, was hit around 2:30 a.m. after Israeli tanks drew closer to the compound amid constant shelling and gunfire, according to a nurse and a hospital administrator.
Recent video shot in the area and geolocated by The New York Times showed several Israeli tanks within a few hundred yards of the hospital and moving toward it.
The two staff members said Monday that the second floor of the hospital, where dozens of patients and displaced people were sleeping, was hit by artillery fire.
“There was chaos, darkness and fire in the department, which made it very difficult to evacuate the dead and wounded,” said Mohamad, the nurse. He and the hospital administrator asked that their full names not be used because they feared for their safety.
Video shot by Palestinian journalists and verified by The Times showed devastation in a ward of the hospital on Monday, with bodies and wreckage sprawled across the floor, and debris hanging from the ceiling. A video made on Sunday showed the same interior intact, with a woman sitting on the floor, making bread on a portable stove.
At least 500 patients and thousands of displaced people were inside the hospital when it was struck, the administrator said. “It’s possible that what happened at Al-Shifa Hospital will also happen to us,” he added, referring to the seizure by Israeli forces of that hospital last week.
After the strike and just before sunrise, dozens of people, including Mohamad, were able to leave in a panic amid shelling and gunfire, he said.
The administrator stayed behind with hundreds of others, including patients on ventilators and in critical condition. Evacuating them would be difficult and would require coordination with humanitarian organizations and the Israeli military, he said.
Gaza’s health ministry said in a statement that it was in touch with the International Committee of the Red Cross about a possible evacuation of the wounded. The Red Cross said in a statement that any evacuation would be “extremely complex.”
The hospital is also running low on fuel, and its main generator could shut down as early as Monday night, the administrator said.
On Monday, 28 premature babies who had been moved from Al-Shifa Hospital to another hospital in southern Gaza were taken across the border to Egypt for medical care, according to the United Nations and an Egyptian state television network, Al Qahera News.
The babies were part of a group of 31 infants who had been moved by a U.N.-led team on Sunday as medical services at Al-Shifa deteriorated. It was not immediately clear why three of the babies had not been taken to Egypt.
Five others who had been cared for at Al-Shifa died before they could be evacuated, according to the United Nations.
As concerns mounted about the toll of the war, diplomatic efforts were continuing to end or at least pause the fighting and potentially secure the release of some of the more than 200 hostages who were taken by Hamas during the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
President Biden, asked on Monday if negotiators were close to a deal to free hostages, said: “I believe so,” and “yes,” and held up two crossed fingers at the annual White House event where the president pardons turkeys before Thanksgiving.
Farnaz Fassihi, Ameera Harouda, Malachy Browne, Arijeta Lajka, Isabel Kershner, Vivian Nereim, Chris Buckley and Nader Ibrahim and Michael Levenson contributed reporting.