Gaza’s largest functioning hospital under siege as Israeli war planes strike Rafah

Health ministry in Gaza says five patients at Nasser Hospital have died

Gaza’s largest functioning hospital was under siege on Friday amid Israel’s war with Islamist group Hamas, leaving patients and doctors helpless in the chaos, as war planes struck the southern border city of Rafah, the last refuge for Palestinians in the enclave, officials said.

Israeli forces said on Thursday they had raided the medical complex as footage showed shouting and gunfire in dark corridors in an incursion that raised fresh alarm over the fate of hundreds of patients and medical workers and the many displaced Palestinians who had sought shelter there from the fighting.

Israel’s military called the raid on Nasser Hospital “precise and limited” and said it was based on information that Hamas militants were hiding and had kept hostages in the facility, with some bodies of captives possibly located there.

The health ministry in Gaza said on Friday that five patients at the hospital had died in intensive care as a result of power outages and the cessation of oxygen supply.


The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday it was trying to reach Nasser Hospital after the Israeli raid.

“There are still critically injured and sick patients that are inside the hospital,” WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said.

“There is an urgent need to deliver fuel to ensure the continuation of the provision of life-saving services... We are trying to get access because people who are still in Nasser medical complex need assistance.”

The Israeli military said troops had detained more than 20 Palestinians it said had been involved in the October attack on Israel in the raid and detained dozens of others for questioning. It said soldiers had also found ammunition and weapons in the hospital.

The Gaza health ministry said earlier this week that there were 10,000 people sheltering at the hospital, but many had left because they feared the Israeli raid was imminent.

The war began when Iran-backed Hamas sent fighters into Israel on October 7th last, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seizing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

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Last week, Israeli authorities alleged that some employees of UNRWA, the Relief Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, were involved in the October 7th Hamas attacks.In response, several countries pulled their funding for the UN agency, jeopardising the delivery of vital humanitarian aid to the desperate citizens of Gaza.UNRWA, which was founded in 1949 and employs more than 30,000 people, works with Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank and other Middle Eastern countries such as Lebanon and Syria. So what will be the impact of these financial cuts for Palestinians on the ground?Mark Weiss in Jerusalem talks to Sorcha Pollak about UNWRA, hostage negotiations and the risk of a wider war. Produced by Suzanne Brennan and Declan Conlon.

Israel’s air and ground offensive has since devastated Gaza, killing 28,775 people, also mostly civilian, according to Palestinian health authorities, and forcing nearly all of its more than two million inhabitants from their homes.

Officials and witnesses say Israel has hit schools, universities, state institutions and mosques in its bombardment of Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that runs the enclave, where its leaders – whom Israel has vowed to hunt down – are believed to be hiding, possibly in a complex underground tunnel network.

Gaza’s health authorities said Israel had forced out dozens of staff, patients, displaced people and families of medical staff sheltering in the Nasser hospital.

Power generators have stopped, and electricity has been completely cut off from the compound.

Two pregnant women had given birth “under tough conditions, no water, no food and no way of warming them up”, in such cold weather, said ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra.

The Gaza health ministry said Israeli forces inside Nasser Hospital had forced women and children to go into the maternity department, which it had turned into a military area. Women were not allowed to take in any of their belongings.

There is mounting international concern that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza could worsen sharply if the Israeli military decides to storm Rafah, where more than half of the densely populated enclave’s people are taking shelter in anticipation of a major attack.

An Israeli air strike hit two houses in Rafah, killing 10 people and wounding several others, health officials said.

Rida Sobh, mourning the death of her sister in one of the Rafah strikes, said the house had been totally destroyed in the midnight attack, which had also killed all her sister’s children, her aunt, husband and cousin.

“Rafah is not safe, everywhere in the Gaza Strip is a target, don’t say that Rafah is safe, from Beit Hanoun to Rafah, it is all dangerous, there is no safety at all, don’t say that there is – safety is only with God, but here there is no security at all.”

In Khan Younis, Israeli planes and tanks continued to bomb areas across the city. – Reuters