In a flagrant violation of international law, Israel intensifies siege of Nasser Medical Complex

After over 20 days of besieging Nasser Medical Complex, Israeli occupation forces attacked thousands of people sheltering inside the hospital

February 14, 2024 by Ana Vračar
The Nasser Medical Complex has been under siege for several days

On February 14, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) launched an attack against thousands of civilians seeking shelter at Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis, including the hospital’s staff and patients. The complex has endured a siege by the IOF for over 20 days, during which those inside were kept under sniper threat, resulting in the deaths of dozens in the vicinity of the hospital. Among the casualties were children who attempted to fetch water, as well as healthcare personnel.

“Get out, animals! Get out, dogs!” shouted IOF soldiers at the people inside Nasser Hospital during the final stages of the siege. Additionally, soldiers forced a young Palestinian man, whom they had detained, to deliver evacuation orders to the hospital. Reportedly, the man was coerced to return to the IOF after carrying out the task, under threat of the soldiers invading the hospital to find him. The Israeli soldiers then shot the man as he was walking back to them.

Most of the complex became unusable due to Israeli attacks throughout the siege. The IOF demolished the northern wall of Nasser Hospital, leaving only one passage usable—the same one through which they marched people out on Wednesday. Before forcing them to leave, Israeli soldiers reportedly positioned face-recognition technology near the exit. This move, according to observers tracking attacks on healthcare in the Gaza Strip, indicates the declaration of Nasser Hospital as a military target, likely to be followed by mass arrests and abuse of healthcare workers and patients.

Read more: Palestinian health workers kidnapped by Israel subjected to torture and humiliation

Until the evacuation was enforced, Nasser was one of the last major health centers remaining in Gaza. Its capacities seconded only those of Al-Shifa Hospital, the Strip’s largest hospital. According to Ubai Aboudi, Executive Director of Bisan Center for Research and Development, Nasser’s beds accounted for some 12% of the overall capacities in Gaza. 

The attack on the hospital is certain to have a devastating effect on the tens of thousands of people injured in Israeli attacks. While the hospital was besieged, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned that it was crucial to keep the complex operational as IOF attacks south of the Wadi Gaza line intensified. 

Despite all the warnings and pleading, the WHO was last able to deliver supplies to Nasser Hospital at the end of January. After that, attempts to organize medical missions were blocked by Israeli authorities. This meant that health workers had barely anything to work with, especially after an attack on nearby school buildings led to a fire, which then destroyed approximately 80% of the stocks in Nasser’s medical warehouse. As a result of the incessant attacks, the hospital’s emergency department was flooded in sewage water, making it unusable.

“The hospital is barely functioning, but we are trying to work as much as possible to save lives,” Mohammed Harara, a doctor from the hospital, told WHO officials days before the attack. “We are scared that any moment we might lose our lives, and we have no clue about our families.”

Staff from the hospital faces additional threats, as the Israeli forces continue to target health workers in particular. Dozens of nurses, paramedics, and doctors have been disappeared by the IOF. They are still be held  under torture and extreme duress, without any access to legal or humanitarian protection.

The dehumanizing attacks against patients, staff, and displaced people at Nasser Hospital are another step towards making Gaza uninhabitable, according to Aboudi. Little doubt remains that the few health institutions that remain in southern Gaza will meet a similar fate as the Israeli armed forces approach. 

After that, says Aboudi, “there will be no care, simply put.” 

People’s Health Dispatch is a fortnightly bulletin published by the People’s Health Movement and Peoples Dispatch. For more articles and to subscribe to People’s Health Dispatch, click here.