Heavy Israeli bombardment in Gaza City forces medical facilities to close

Medical faculties were forced to shut down amidst heavy Israeli bombardment in Gaza City.


World News

July 9, 2024 - 3:42 PM

A hospital in Gaza.

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Heavy Israeli bombardment shook Gaza City on Tuesday as thousands of fleeing Palestinians searched for shelter and medical facilities were forced to shut down in the latest offensive in the territory’s north.

Israel’s new ground assault in Gaza’s largest city is its latest effort to battle Hamas militants regrouping in areas the army previously said had been largely cleared.

Large parts of Gaza City and urban areas around it have been flattened or left a shattered landscape after nine months of fighting. Much of the population fled earlier in the war, but several hundred thousand Palestinians remain in the north.

“The fighting has been intense,” said Hakeem Abdel-Bar, who fled Gaza City’s Tuffah district to the home of relatives in another part of the city. He said Israeli warplanes and drones were “striking anything moving” and that tanks had moved into central districts.

There was no immediate word on casualties. Families whose relatives were wounded or trapped were calling for ambulances, but first responders could not reach most of the affected districts because of the Israeli operations, said Nebal Farsakh, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Red Crescent.

“It’s a dangerous zone,” she said.

After Israel on Monday called for an evacuation from eastern and central parts of Gaza City, staff at two hospitals — Al-Ahli and the Patients Friends Association Hospital – rushed to move patients and shut down, the United Nations said. Farsakh said all three medical facilities run by the Red Crescent in Gaza City had closed.

Scores of patients were transferred to the Indonesian Hospital in northern Gaza, which itself was the scene of heavy fighting earlier in the war. “We do not know where to go. There is no treatment and no necessities for life,” said Mohammad Abu Naser, who was being treated there. “We are dying slowly.”

The Israeli military on Tuesday said it had told hospitals and other medical facilities in Gaza City that they did not need to evacuate. But hospitals in Gaza have often shut down and moved patients at any sign of possible Israeli military action, fearing raids.

In the past nine months, Israeli troops have occupied at least eight hospitals, causing the deaths of patients and medical workers along with massive destruction to facilities and equipment. Israel has claimed Hamas uses hospitals for military purposes, though it has provided only limited evidence.

Only 13 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are functioning, and those only partially, according to the U.N.’s humanitarian office.

Israel’s campaign in Gaza, triggered by Hamas’ Oct 7 attack, has killed or wounded more than 5% of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians, according to the territory’s Health Ministry. Nearly the entire population has been driven from their homes. Many have been displaced multiple times. Hundreds of thousands are packed into sweltering tent camps.

The U.N. humanitarian office said the exodus in Gaza City was “dangerously chaotic,” with people instructed to flee through neighborhoods where fighting was underway.

“People have been observed fleeing in multiple directions, not knowing which way may be safest,” the agency said in a statement. It said the largest U.N. bakery in the city was forced to close, and that the fighting had blocked aid groups from accessing warehouses.

Maha Mahfouz, a mother of two, said she fled twice in the past 24 hours. She first rushed from her home in Gaza City to a relative’s house in another neighborhood. When that became dangerous, she fled Monday night to Shati, a decades-old refugee camp that has grown into an urban district where Israel has carried out repeated raids.

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