Northern Gaza hospital ‘overwhelmed by horror’ as Israeli army lays siege

Health official describes gunfire and artillery shells outside Kamal Adwan Hospital as hundreds are trapped inside.

Terrified civilians are trapped inside the Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza as Israeli forces have encircled the medical facility, a senior official at the Ministry of Health tells Al Jazeera.

More than 100 people have been killed in strikes close to the facility, the ministry said on Tuesday.

“The Israeli occupation forces have laid siege to the hospital from all sides … We are targeted by gunfire and artillery shells,” said Munir al-Bursh, director-general of the Health Ministry in Gaza, speaking from inside Kamal Adwan.

“Patients, injured and those who took shelter in the hospital are gripped with fear; overwhelmed by horror,” he said.

Footage from Kamal Adwan showed bodies swaddled in white, lined up in rows in a courtyard of the medical compound. Witnesses said anyone attempting to leave was being shot at by Israeli snipers.

“We fear a massacre inside Kamal Adwan Hospital, as happened in [al-Shifa Hospital] and the [Indonesian Hospital]”, al-Bursh said.

Israeli strike near the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip
A Palestinian man receives treatment after an Israeli strike near the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip on November 22, 2023 [File: Mohammad Ahmad/AFP]

‘They have already killed us’

Overnight, injured people continued to stream into the hospital amid ongoing bombardment, their heads and faces covered in dust. The hundreds of evacuees taking shelter there are shown resting or being treated on the floor by medics with extremely limited resources.

“What do they want from us? They have already killed us. Our families and friends are dead,” a man at the medical facility told Al Jazeera.

A second man explained that he moved to the hospital hoping to find safety from the Israeli air strikes, but his words were abruptly interrupted by the loud bang of an explosion that could be heard very close by.

“We wished we were not left behind,” screamed a woman, her hands shaking and her voice imbued with desperation.

More than 1.1 million people were ordered in mid-October to evacuate the north of the Strip and to move southwards as Israeli troops were advancing their ground offensive.

Battles and aerial strikes stopped for a weeklong truce to allow the exchange of captives Hamas took in its attack on Israel on October 7 for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. The temporary halt in fighting collapsed on Friday.

‘Holding our ground’

Since the truce ended, Israeli forces resumed their attacks across Gaza with a renewed intensity in the north, while also expanding their operations to the south.

Israeli attacks on Gaza have killed more than 15,900 Palestinians since October 7, after Hamas killed about 1,100 in Israel that day.

While international pressure has been mounting on Israel to show restraint in targeting civilians in its second phase of the war, scores of dead have been reported each night.

On Monday night, at least 158 people were confirmed dead, Gaza’s Health Ministry said. Of these, more than 108 were killed in strikes close to the Kamal Adwan Hospital; 40 dead bodies were received at the Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis. The previous night, the ministry said 349 people were killed.

The situation at the Kamal Adwan Hospital echoes the events that unfolded at the al-Shifa Hospital, the biggest of the Strip, where people seeking shelter, patients in critical conditions and doctors were ordered, some at gunpoint, to evacuate after several days of siege. Israel denied doing so.

“The hospital is under attack by Israeli forces with the aim of evacuating all those inside the hospital,” said al-Bursh. “We, the medical staff, are holding our ground. We are standing by our patients and the wounded.”

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