Gaza's Al Quds Hospital 'unusable' after being gutted by fire

Hebrew graffiti scrawled on walls by Israeli forces, with north of enclave in dire need of ambulances and medical equipment

A doctor at Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza city after it was hit by an Israeli air strike on October 17. Medical supplies are scarce in Gaza's north. EPA
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Al Quds Hospital, run by the Palestinian Red Crescent in Gaza city, has been left "unusable" and gutted, two months after it was forcibly evacuated, a senior ambulance official told The National on Monday.

"We could even see Hebrew writing on the walls," said Mohammad Abu Musabeh, director of ambulance and emergency services for the Palestinian Red Crescent in the Gaza Strip, who is part of a team bringing ambulances to the north.

"There's clear evidence that Israeli forces have been on every floor of the hospital and consumables were destroyed."

Most buildings in the north are either fully or partially destroyed by air strikes, while some have collapsed, Mr Abu Musabeh said, as the war in Gaza extends beyond 100 days and the death toll has crossed the 24,000 mark.

About "80 per cent" of residents in Gaza's north have fled, according to his estimates. The situation in Jabalia – one of the only remaining places in the north where people can receive medical treatment – is "tragic", Mr Abu Musabeh said.

"Still, they've been able to perform heroic work, risking their lives to give us an update about how they are as communications have been cut," he said of doctors and medical teams in Jabalia.

English follows: ‏⭕️أعاد الهلال الأحمر الفلسطيني اليوم تفعيل خدمات الإسعاف والطوارىء 🚑في محافظة ⁧‫#غزة‬⁩ بعد توقفها قسرا...

Posted by ‎Palestine Red Crescent society الهلال الاحمر الفلسطيني‎ on Sunday, January 14, 2024

Gaza city has been without ambulances for at least a month since Israeli forces raided and arrested crews at a Palestinian Red Crescent centre. Further north, only one Red Crescent ambulance – in poor condition – is in service. "It has been largely destroyed by shrapnel and gunfire," Mr Abu Musabeh said.

On Sunday, a Red Crescent team departed from Khan Younis for the north to deliver two ambulances to Gaza city and another two to another point in the north.

But access was no easy feat.

Mr Abu Musabeh said the team had applied for a permit to travel north 10 days ago. An extensive list of documents, including mobile phone numbers, ID details, vehicle registration plate numbers and a register of equipment was handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which would then act as a go-between with the Israeli military.

"We got the green light to go ahead on Sunday at 8am – and moved shortly after," he said.

Part of Monday's mission includes visiting Al Ahli Arab Hospital, which was struck on October 17, and Al Shifa Hospital, which is now "partially functioning" after being forced to shut down in November, the World Health Organisation said.

The official said his team still requires official approval to move from one place to another.

The focus is now on attempting to return to Gaza city and northern Gaza to deliver medical supplies, he says.

Updated: January 15, 2024, 3:47 PM