June 20, 2024

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The war between Israel and Hamas and Rafah news: latest updates

The war between Israel and Hamas and Rafah news: latest updates
Damage to the facade of Al Awda Hospital in March, in a still from a World Health Organization video.credit…World Health Organization, via Reuters

After a four-day siege of Al Awda Hospital, a major medical center in northern Gaza, the Israeli military ordered patients and staff to evacuate the hospital on Wednesday and then raided the complex, according to Gaza health officials.

While most of the approximately 150 people who were at Al Awda Hospital were able to evacuate, about 30 people, including critically ill patients, their companions and medical workers, remained behind, said Dr. Medhat Abbas, spokesman for the Gaza Ministry of Health. He said in a statement on Thursday.

The Israeli army refused to comment on its operations in the vicinity of the village of Al-Awda, located in the Tal Al-Zaatar area in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel withdrew from most areas of the north earlier this year, but recently returned to some areas to fight what it says are attempts by Hamas to reconstitute its forces there.

The acting director of the hospital, Dr. Muhammad Salha, said that he told the Israeli forces that he would not transfer some critically ill patients without ambulances. He said he remained there with a small number of medical personnel to ensure the safe evacuation of patients.

“They crush everything and destroy doors,” Dr. Salha said. “They are examining every centimeter of the hospital,” he added in a voice message from inside the hospital early Thursday morning.

Naji Ziadeh, a member of the hospital’s administrative body, said that those in the hospital “were subjected to siege for four full days, during which we lived through indescribable terror.” He said in a phone interview that a tank advanced to the hospital entrance on Wednesday and that forces used loudspeakers to issue orders for everyone to evacuate.

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Ziadeh said that Israeli forces then began escorting patients and employees out of the hospital and searching them one by one. They were then taken to a warehouse and asked to move north to Gaza City.

Ziadeh said he “shed tears of pain” while evacuating the hospital, where he, like Dr. Salha, has been working and living since the war began. “It’s our home,” he said.

Dr. Salha said that among those who were trapped inside the hospital during the siege, with little fuel and no clean water, were two newborn babies and their mothers, who delivered them by caesarean section. He added that the employees he had been in contact with had been evacuated to Gaza City and were seeking shelter.

The miserable conditions in the hospital are part of a pattern repeated repeatedly across Gaza over more than seven months of war. Israel raided several hospitals after it accused Hamas, the armed group that led an attack on southern Israel on October 7, of using them for military purposes, which Hamas and hospital directors denied.

Like many medical facilities, Al Awda Hospital has been subjected to repeated attacks. In November, Doctors Without Borders said three doctors, including two of its staff, were killed in a raid on the hospital.

The hospital also faced a siege for nearly two weeks in December, during which several medical workers in the building, including a surgeon from Doctors Without Borders, came under fire from outside, the aid organization said. Doctors Without Borders said the Israeli army then took control of the hospital, stripped the people naked and detained them for interrogation.

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The hospital director, Dr. Ahmed Muhanna, was one of those detained by Israel and his whereabouts remain unknown, according to ActionAid, another NGO that supports the hospital.

Amira Harouda He contributed reporting from Doha, Qatar.