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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

‘Chaos, darkness and fire’: Fighting erupts around another embattled hospital in Gaza

The Indonesian Hospital in the northern Gaza Strip early this month.

By Hiba Yazbek

At least 12 people were killed and dozens wounded in an attack on a hospital in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday morning as fighting escalated around it, according to two hospital staff members and the Gaza Health Ministry, which blamed Israel for the strike.

The Indonesian Hospital was hit around 2:30 a.m. after Israeli tanks drew closer to the compound amid constant shelling and gunfire, according to a nurse and a hospital administrator. The precise source of the strike could not be independently verified.

Recent video shot in the area and geolocated by The New York Times showed several Israeli tanks within a few hundred yards of the hospital and moving toward it. The two staff members said Monday that the second floor of the hospital, where dozens of patients and displaced people were sleeping, was hit by artillery fire, and that medical workers were unable to move the dead as fighting continued outside.

“There was chaos, darkness and fire in the department which made it very difficult to evacuate the dead and wounded,” said Mohamad, the nurse. He and the hospital administrator asked that their full names not be used because they feared for their safety.

Video shot by Palestinian journalists and verified by the Times showed a scene of devastation within a ward of the hospital Monday, with bodies and wreckage sprawled across the floor, and debris hanging from the ceiling. A video made Sunday showed the same interior intact.

At least 500 patients and thousands of displaced people were inside the building when the attack happened, the administrator said. “It’s possible that what happened at Al-Shifa Hospital will also happen to us,” he added, referring to Gaza’s largest hospital, which was raided by Israeli forces last week.

The Israeli military said that its forces had come under fire overnight “from within the Indonesian Hospital” and that it “directly targeted the specific source of enemy fire” in response. “No shells were fired toward the hospital,” the military said in a statement.

Since invading Gaza more than three weeks ago, the Israeli military has steadily surrounded several hospitals in northern Gaza. Israel says that Hamas, the armed group that rules Gaza and that launched the devastating Oct. 7 attacks in Israel, has concealed bases inside hospitals, and it has begun releasing videos taken by its forces searching Shifa Hospital that it says support its assertion.

Proof of an extensive Hamas command center under Shifa has yet to be revealed. The group has denied Israeli accusations that it uses civilian infrastructure and says Israel is committing war crimes by targeting hospitals.

As they close in on the Indonesian Hospital, Israeli forces have been strengthening their hold over northern Gaza.

Artillery and gunfire have been heard for several days near the Indonesian Hospital, which is in the far northern city of Beit Lahia, and Israeli tanks drew closer to the building in the Sunday evening hours before the strike, the administrator said.

After the strike and just before sunrise, dozens of people, including Mohamad, were able to leave in a panic “amid shelling and gunfire,” he said.

A video posted early Monday by a man who had been sharing videos from the hospital for days showed him running out of the hospital compound with others as gunshots rang out. The Times verified that the video was taken at the hospital.

The administrator stayed behind with hundreds of others, including patients on ventilators and in critical condition. “Evacuating them would be very complicated” without coordination with humanitarian organizations and the Israeli military, he said.

The health ministry said in a statement that it was in touch with the International Committee of the Red Cross about a possible evacuation of the wounded. The aid organization said in a statement to the Times that any evacuation would be “extremely complex.”

The head of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on social media that the organization was “appalled” at the reports of the attack, adding: “Health workers and civilians should never have to be exposed to such horror, and especially while inside a hospital.”

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