Israel Surrounds Hospitals in Gaza
The worst reports are coming in from al-Quds and al-Shifa, though Israeli tanks have also surrounded other hospitals in the north of Gaza. This was preceded by repeated airstrikes on the roads and buildings in the vicinity of each hospital to make it difficult to enter or leave. As with the al-Ahli hospital that was bombed killing over 400 people, these hospitals too have received numerous warnings to evacuate or be bombed, according to media interviews with their medical directors or other administrative officials.
Later the airstrikes moved closer to the periphery of the hospitals, their gates and courtyards, and included attacks on an ambulance convoy returning from an unsuccessful attempt to transport wounded patients outside Gaza. On the morning of the 10th, an Israeli airstrike hit al-Shifa itself, as seen below.
Reuters reported it had verified these videos as coming from an area near the entrance to the hospital complex, and that a large number of the displaced people sheltering in the hospital grounds had been forced to leave following the airstrike. The Palestinian health ministry spokesperson in Gaza, Ashraf al-Qudra, told Al Jazeera Saturday that Israel had struck the Shifa hospital five times since Thursday night, saying, “They shelled the maternity department and the outpatient clinics building. One Palestinian was killed and several were wounded in the early morning attack.” Another bombardment on the night of the 10th was captured in this video, which Médecins sans Frontières also posted about in an SOS the same night.
On the 11th, Saturday, the organisation said it had lost contact with its team at the Shifa hospital, as media reports emerged that Israeli occupation forces surrounding the hospital had jammed communications. UNOCHA in its flash update on Friday said “By noon, Israeli ground forces reportedly completed the encirclement of four hospitals in An Nasser area of Gaza city.
One of them, a pediatric hospital, stopped operations on 9 November after sustaining significant damage. This brings to 20 (out of 36) the number of hospitals throughout Gaza that are no longer functioning.” It added that at least 192 medical workers had been killed in the Israeli attacks since October 7, most of them in their homes. Later on Saturday, reports began to emerge again from al-Shifa and the vicinity of the encircled hospitals, including this appeal from diaspora Palestinian activist Yara Eid about her friend and his family trapped near al-Shifa. The second half of the appeal is in English.
The surgeon Ghassan Abu Sitta posted from Gaza that, because hospitals had been cut off and from a lack of supplies, including anesthetic, and the bombardment, people wounded by the bombing were no longer being treated effectively. Delayed treatment would lead to disability in children.
Meanwhile, in London, as healthcare workers held a protest vigil to demand a ceasefire now, MSF doctor Tanya Haj Hassan conveyed a message from Shifa hospital director Mohammed Abu Salmiya: “Dear colleagues, the situation at al-Shifa now is extremely dangerous. We, as medical staff, want to leave but we cannot, we might not survive until morning. We don’t want to be killed here just only because we were committed to our patients and our medical profession. I am calling for help urgently. Please do whatever you can through your governments or through the International Red Cross to arrange a safe corridor for medical staff. Please treat this as top urgent.”
Later Saturday, the Palestine Red Crescent reported Israeli snipers had opened fire on the ICU in the Quds hospital in the north. Their initial update was one person had been killed and 20 wounded.
They posted this update from medics at al-Quds later in the day.
It was a similar strategy at al-Shifa. “There are also snipers firing from all directions around the complex and its vicinity,” Ashraf al-Qudra, the health ministry spokesperson, told Al Jazeera. “There is panic inside the complex, there is no movement in the grounds of the complex. Ambulances cannot move due to the direct strikes.” It was later reported that snipers had shot a nurse trying to make it to the neonatal ICU. An update a few hours ago by the Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert said the newborn and premature babies at al-Shifa had had to be moved due to the attacks, and three of the 39 babies needing respirators, nutrition, temperature regulation had died.
That day the Israeli military’s international spokesperson Richard Hecht told reporters, “If we see Hamas terrorists firing from hospitals, we’ll do what we need to do… If we see Hamas terrorists, we’ll kill them.” While Shifa hospital director Abu Salmiya responded, “This is false, these are utter lies… This is a civilian hospital. We cater to more than 1.5 million Gazans… The Israeli occupation forces are fully aware that this is a totally safe area. They are certain that there is no command centre or any tunnels under these hospitals.” As the power went out, he said, “Medical devices stopped. Patients, especially those in intensive care, started to die.”
On Saturday night, MSF posted this update from its surgeon Mohammad Obeid from al-Shifa. He said they had intermittent cell connectivity and that “there’s a sniper who attacked four patients inside the hospital.” The sniper had shot one of the patients in the neck, leaving him paralysed. He added, “There is no electricity, there is no water, there is no food, our team is exhausted.”
Earlier in the attacks, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International had independently confirmed that the Israeli occupation had used white phosphorus in its bombardment of Lebanon and Gaza, including on the al-Durrah Children’s Hospital, forcing its evacuation. According to the WHO, “Once ignited, white phosphorus is very difficult to extinguish. It sticks to surfaces like skin and clothing… White phosphorus can cause deep and severe burns, penetrating even through bone, and has been known to reignite after initial treatment.” Now again last night unverified videos were showing the use of white phosphorus on al-Shifa.
Media reports from Saturday had it that the number of displaced people sheltering in the hospital grounds had dropped from about 14,000 to a few thousand. People heading south were repeatedly bombed, according to several reports and eyewitness testimony. At the time of writing, al-Shifa hospital director Abu Salmiya said the Israeli occupiers had “ignored requests to transfer the newborns out of al-Shifa to a safe location.” There are bodies in the courtyard of the hospital no one is able to retrieve, and workers are digging a pit by hand inside the hospital complex for mass burial of the decomposing victims of the attacks, according to the hospital director.
Attacks on the Awda hospital in the north have also been reported, while the Indonesian hospital and 20 others are no longer functional. The siege of Gaza has been in place for 37 days. Besides hospitals, Israel also shelled the Buraq school killing over 50 people sheltering there on Saturday.