The relentless attack on the Gaza Strip has seen its worst attack so far as an Israeli airstrike struck al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City, raising grave concerns about the safety of thousands of civilians seeking medical treatment and shelter. The attack on the hospital, which resulted in a reported minimum of 500 casualties, has drawn international condemnation and renewed calls for an immediate ceasefire.
Gaza’s health ministry confirmed the staggering number of casualties in the wake of the hospital’s destruction, underscoring the severe humanitarian crisis unfolding in the region. The Israeli airstrike did not discriminate; it also hit a UN-run school that was providing refuge to Palestinian refugees, further deepening the sense of despair.
Ibrahim Fraihat, a researcher from the Doha Institute of Graduate Studies, voiced strong condemnation for the Israeli actions, categorizing them as potential war crimes that urgently need to be addressed by the US government and the International Criminal Court. He told Al-Jazeerah, “The bombardment is reaching every centimetre of Gaza, there is no safe area. This hospital that’s been hit is in an area where Israel ordered the people to evacuate to. It is supposed to be a safe zone.”
The head of pediatrics at the Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza, Dr. Hussam Abu Safiya says that the attack is “unconscionable and yet we have seen it again and again… We are fighting to save wounded children, pregnant mothers, babies are being born here.” Abu Safiya lamented the tragic toll of the conflict, revealing that over 200 dead bodies, primarily women and children, arrived at Shifa Hospital.
Hassan Khalaf, the medical director of al-Wafa Hospital in Gaza City, located less than a mile from al-Ahli Arab Hospital, revealed the grim aftermath of the Israeli attack, noting that the hospital “is still burning”. Thousands of Palestinians have been injured in the ongoing Israeli bombardment, leaving virtually no safe havens for civilians. Khalaf asked “Where [is there] to go?… They want to do massacres and massacres and massacres in Gaza.”
Several hospitals in Gaza City have become sanctuaries for hundreds of residents who had hoped these facilities would be safe havens after Israel issued evacuation orders. These orders compelled residents to leave the city and its environs, leaving those who couldn’t travel south in an untenable situation.
Ziad Shehadah, a medical doctor and Gaza resident, expressed deep sorrow over the loss of civilian lives:
“What’s happened is terrible because those people, all of them, are civilians. They fled their homes and reached a place that they believed was safe – a hospital, which according to international law, is a safe place.
“People left their homes thinking they were more dangerous and they moved to our schools and hospitals to be safe. And in one minute, all of them have been killed at a hospital.
“The death toll right now is more than 500, but we believe that number will reach more than 1,000. It is a massacre.”
Nebal Farsakh, a representative from the Palestine Red Crescent Society, decried the high number of casualties in front of the hospital. Farsakh explained that these individuals, forced to leave their homes under evacuation orders, couldn’t afford to travel south and were left with no alternative She condemned the destruction of infrastructure and transportation and unequivocally labelled the situation as “genocide” and a “war crime.”
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, was quick to condemn the attack on al-Ahli Arab Hospital and called for the immediate protection of civilians and the reversal of Israel’s evacuation orders. The UN health agency said in a statement: “The hospital was operational, with patients, health- and care-givers, and internally-displaced people sheltering there. Early reports indicate hundreds of fatalities and injuries.”
The WHO further demanded the active protection of civilians and healthcare workers in Gaza, stressing the vital importance of upholding international humanitarian law, which mandates the safety of healthcare facilities and those seeking refuge.
The situation in Gaza remains dire, with a growing chorus of international voices calling for an immediate ceasefire and the protection of civilian lives. Following the event on October 7th, the IDF was planning a swift ground invasion. However, they claim that due to bad weather, the ground offensive was delayed. Yet, the bombardment continues for the 8th day and as it continues to escalate, the world watches with deep concern and hopes for a swift resolution to this tragic chapter in the region’s history.