Israeli siege turns Gaza’s Nasser Hospital into ‘a place of death’

Officials from the United Nations who conducted evacuation missions from Gaza’s Nasser Hospital have described “appalling” conditions at the enclave’s second-largest medical facility, saying an Israeli military operation there has transformed a “place of healing” into a “place of death”.

The comments, in videos posted online on Wednesday, came amid growing concern for the dozens of patients and staff who remain trapped inside the hospital amid intensified Israeli bombardment of the area.

The hospital, in Gaza’s Khan Younis city, stopped functioning last week after a week-long Israeli siege followed by a raid, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The global health agency, along with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS), has so far managed to evacuate some 32 critical patients, including injured children and those with paralysis.

Jonathan Whittal, an OCHA official who took part in the evacuation missions on February 18 and 19, said patients at the hospital were in a “desperate situation” and were trapped without food, water and electricity.

“The conditions are appalling. There are dead bodies in the corridors,” he said. “This has become a place of death, not a place of healing.”

The rescue mission has previously said they had to navigate through pitch-black corridors with flashlights to find patients against a backdrop of gunfire. They had to arrive on foot because a deep, muddy ditch near the hospital has made roads near the site impassable.

“You can think about the worst situation ever. You multiply that by 10 and this is the worst situation I have seen in my life,” said Julio Martinez, a WHO staff. “It’s the debris, it’s the light – working in the darkness. Patients everywhere.”

According to Palestinian health authorities, at least eight patients have already died at the facility, mostly due to fuel a lack of fuel and oxygen. They say the lives of those remaining were directly threatened and accused Israeli forces of effectively converting the site into “military barracks”.

Chris Black, a WHO communications officer, said the entire neighbourhood around the hospital has been “damaged and destroyed”.

“The hospital itself has no electricity, has no food, has no water,” he added.

The WHO said some 130 severely injured patients and 15 medics remain at the site.

Despite the desperate situation, doctors and nurses at the hospital were pleading not for evacuation, but for the functions of the hospital to be restored, according to a former colleague of theirs.

“The last week has been miserable. It’s been a nightmare [for workers in the hospital]. The things they’re seeing are traumatising and they’re asking for some sort of help,” said Dr Thaer Ahmad, a United States-based emergency physician who spent several weeks volunteering at the Nasser Hospital in January.

“They’re asking, actually, not to be evacuated from the hospital but for the hospital to function. For the lights to be turned back on, for the medicine they need to treat the patients that remain,” he said.

“I spoke to one of the last surgeons remaining there, who sent a message to a group of physicians here in the US, and he asked us to advocate for the patients who are there. He told us, ‘I’m staring at patients, and they need my help, they need my care, and there’s nothing that I can do’,” added Ahmad.

The WHO said it was continuing efforts to evacuate further patients.

The agency, in a statement earlier this week, described the dismantling and degradation of the Nasser Hospital – the latest medical facility to become a theatre of war in the conflict between Israel and Hamas – as a “massive blow” to Gaza’s health system. It said the remaining facilities in the south were “already operating well beyond maximum capacity” and barely able to receive additional patients.

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, at least 29,092 Palestinians, most of them women and children, have been killed in Israeli assaults since October 7, when Hamas launched a surprise attack inside southern Israel.

Some 1,139 people were killed in the Hamas attacks in Israel.


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