Thousands told to leave Khan Younis Hospital after two-week Israeli siege

Soldiers have killed at least 10 people inside the Khan Younis complex over the past week, health ministry says

An injured child is treated at Nasser Hospital, where more than 10,000 displaced people had taken shelter, in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. EPA
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More than 10,000 displaced people who took shelter at Nasser Hospital in Gaza's southern city of Khan Younis began leaving on Wednesday after more than two weeks trapped inside the medical complex by the Israeli military.

Videos shared by medics and other Palestinian sources on the ground showed dozens of people, some holding white flags, walking out of the hospital carrying their belongings in plastic bags.

The Gaza health ministry told The National that they were being forced to leave by the Israeli army, a day after it issued an order telling patients and staff to remain inside the hospital.

“It’s forced displacement,” the Health Ministry's director general, Medhat Abbas, said.

Israeli snipers killed at least three civilians sheltering at the hospital, and wounded 10 others, ministry spokesman Dr Ashraf Al Qudra said on Tuesday. That brought the total number of people killed inside the complex over the past week to 10.

Medical staff could not transfer them to the mortuary for fear of being shot, he said.

The clearing of the hospital comes as Israel's military prepares to enter the southernmost city of Rafah on the border with Egypt.

The city and surrounding areas are hosting an estimated 1.4 million people – over half of Gaza's population – after hundreds of thousands fled there to seek refuge from Israeli bombardment and advancing ground forces in other parts of the territory.

At least 103 people were killed and 145 others were wounded in Israeli bombardments across Gaza overnight, the health ministry said on Wednesday, raising the total death toll in the territory to nearly 28,600 since the war began on October 7.

Another 68,291 have been wounded, according to the ministry, which says thousands of other victims lie unaccounted for under the rubble of bombed buildings.

On Tuesday, desperate Gazans in Rafah, which the UN has called a “pressure cooker of despair”, cut through parts of the fence separating it from Egypt.

A Mercy Corps staff member who has been staying at a shelter in Rafah for 117 days told The National that the situation was “tragic” and too great to bear.

“Just yesterday, our neighbour died of a heart attack. He was a young man in his forties who worked as a photographer, unable to bear everything he saw through his lens,” the staff member said.

There are many factors that are killing Gazans, he said.

“If people survive the bombings, they are exposed to many diseases due to the cold and rain, overcrowding, lack of washing water, poor hygiene, accumulation of garbage in the streets, and so on.”

Faten Mohammed, who fled to Rafah from Gaza city with her family of seven, said she worried about the spread of disease due to the general lack of hygiene and the unavailability of medicine.

Niveen Eouda, who was forced by the fighting to move several times before she reached Rafah, said food shortages had raised prices so high that she cannot buy anything her children asked for.

“They miss the taste of chocolate, and ask me if they can eat chicken and meat. Is it normal to starve people like this? What did we do to deserve this punishment?” she asked

Updated: February 15, 2024, 11:58 AM