Israeli special forces enter largest remaining functioning hospital in Gaza

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Israeli special forces on Thursday entered Nasser Hospital, the largest remaining functioning medical facility in Gaza, according to both the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the Ministry of Health in Hamas-run Gaza.

The news came after doctors and medical officials in southern Gaza said Israeli snipers had shot dead a number of people as they tried to leave the Nasser Medical Complex in recent days.

The hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis has for weeks been at the center of an ongoing Israeli military assault in the area.

The IDF spokesperson claimed to have “credible intelligence from a number of sources, including from released hostages,” that Hamas had previously held hostages at the hospital, and that the bodies of deceased hostages may be present at the hospital. The military did not publicly release that evidence.

Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said that IDF forces were “conducting a precise and limited operation inside Nasser hospital.”

Dr. Ashraf Al-Qidra, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, said: “The Israeli occupation storms the Nasser Medical Complex and turns it into a military barracks after demolishing the southern wall and entering from it.”

Israeli military bulldozers are digging up the mass graves that had been dug inside the complex walls, Dr. Al-Qidra said.

It comes a day after hundreds of civilians were forced by Israeli forces to leave the hospital, which they had been using as a shelter. Video filmed on Tuesday showed columns of smoke at its perimeter, an Israeli bulldozer destroying a hospital perimeter wall, and an armored vehicle entering the hospital grounds. The sound of gunfire can be heard throughout.

Among those injured, according to the surgeon, was a 16-year-old boy shot with four bullets at the hospital gate.

“The tanks and the snipers (are) surrounding the hospital from all directions,” the surgeon said in a voice message early Wednesday. “They threatened to bomb the hospital within half an hour.”

Israel has repeatedly said that its military forces do not target civilians.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza also said Israeli sniper fire had killed civilians on Tuesday and said a further seven people were shot dead by Israeli snipers on Monday.

More than 1,500 displaced people are still inside the facility, including at least 273 patients and 190 medical staff, according to the Ministry of Health in Hamas-controlled Gaza. There are three children inside the nursery, it added.

Early in the war, the Israeli military designated Khan Younis as a safer zone and told residents from northern Gaza to seek shelter there. But as the IDF pushed its ground offensive south, the city became its next focus.

The IDF says Khan Younis is a Hamas stronghold, and that a tunnel network underneath civilian buildings in the city was likely where Hamas planned the October 7 attacks, in which more than 1,200 people were killed – the deadliest such attacks in Israel’s history.

In the west of the city, where the hospital is located, the Israeli military said it was targeting Hamas outposts, infrastructure, and command and control centers.

Vital medical services at the hospital had collapsed in late January, according to Doctors Without Borders, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and staff were left with “very low supplies that are insufficient to handle mass casualty events.”

Now, electrical generators will stop within 72 hours if the Israeli bombardment persists, Dr. Ashraf Al-Qidra, a spokesman for the Hamas run Ministry of Health in Gaza said on Wednesday.

“The situation is catastrophic and very disturbing in the Nasser Medical Complex, and there is a state of panic among those present there,” he said. “Sewage water is flooding the emergency department.”

In late January, doctors at the hospital described a “completely catastrophic” with the hospital “entirely besieged” by Israeli forces.

Video filmed on Tuesday at the hospital shows columns of smoke at its perimeter, an Israeli bulldozer destroying a hospital perimeter wall, and an armored vehicle entering the hospital grounds. The sound of gunfire can be heard throughout.

With so much destruction in northern Gaza and the current offensive unfolding in the southern part of the besieged enclave, MSF said that many people have no safe place to flee.

“People ask us ‘Where is it safe? Where should we go?’, but there is no answer to that, and it really leads to a feeling of despair,” said Lisa Macheiner, a MSF project coordinator in Gaza.

MSF condemned the Israeli military’s order to evacuate patients, staff and displaced people from Nasser Hospital, saying “people have been forced into an impossible situation.”

“Stay at Nasser hospital against the Israeli military’s orders and become a potential target, or exit the compound into an apocalyptic landscape where bombings and evacuation orders are a part of daily life,” Macheiner said.

“Hospitals should be considered as safe places and shouldn’t even be evacuated in the first place.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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