Patients at Nasser Hospital

Injured Palestinians, including children, are brought to Nasser Hospital to receive medical treatment following Israeli attacks in Khan Younis, Gaza on January 22, 2024.

(Photo: Belal Khaled/Anadolu via Getty Images)

IDF Storms Largest Hospital in Southern Gaza and Attacks 'Ward Full of Patients'

"The situation is escalating every hour and every minute," said a surgeon at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis.

Israeli forces on Thursday stormed the largest hospital in southern Gaza, ignoring warnings from United Nations officials, humanitarian groups, and the facility's administrators that such a raid would put the lives of patients and people sheltering there at dire risk.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reportedly destroyed the southern wall of the Nasser Hospital complex in Khan Younis and started raiding the facility, where around 10,000 people had sought shelter from Israeli airstrikes and ground attacks.

Without providing evidence, Israel has claimed Hamas is using the hospital for "military activities." Israel also claimed to have intelligence indicating that hostages or their bodies were being held at Nasser.

Ashraf al-Qudra, a spokesman for Gaza's health ministry, said Thursday that Israel launched a "massive incursion" into the hospital, firing on and wounding people inside and ordering the facility's staff to move all patients who were unable to flee into a building that's not adequately equipped, The Associated Pressreported.

As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 1,500 displaced people and patients were still inside the Nasser complex, Gaza health officials said in an update on social media.

"Many cannot evacuate, such as those with lower limb amputations, severe burns, or the elderly," al-Qudra told Al Jazeera.

Others worried that Israeli forces would shoot them if they tried to leave.

"I'm terrified to leave the hospital and get shot," Hanin Abu Tiba, a 27-year-old English teacher sheltering at the hospital, toldThe New York Times on Wednesday.

The raid began Thursday after Israeli forces reportedly bombed a ward of the hospital that was full of patients. Gaza health officials said the IDF targeted the hospital's orthopedic department, killing at least one person and injuring "many" more.

The Israeli military, which has encircled Nasser Hospital for weeks, began ordering civilians inside the facility to evacuate on Tuesday.

Citing one of the only remaining journalists inside the facility, The Interceptreported Wednesday that the IDF sent a handcuffed Palestinian man into Nasser to tell people sheltering inside to leave.

An Israeli soldier shot the man, later identified as Jamal Abu Al-Ola, three times in the chest and abdomen as he began walking out of the hospital after delivering the message.

Israeli snipers have also opened fire on people scrambling to flee the hospital as well as medical personnel and patients inside the facility.

Gaza health officials said Wednesday that the situation at Nasser is "catastrophic" and that Israel's evacuation orders sparked "a state of panic among its residents."

Dr. Ahmed Moghrabi, a surgeon at Nasser, posted video footage to Instagram that provides a glimpse of the chaos inside the hospital as it comes under Israeli attack.

Dr. Khaled Alserr, another Nasser surgeon, told AP that seven people injured by Israeli attacks on Thursday were already being treated for existing wounds. Alserr said a doctor was also injured when an Israeli drone "opened fire on the upper stories of the hospital."

"The situation is escalating every hour and every minute," he said.

Israel's raid began hours after Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders, condemned the evacuation orders and reiterated its call for a permanent cease-fire. MSF said some of its staff members were "still in the building" treating patients "amid near impossible conditions."

"People have been forced into an impossible situation: stay at Nasser Hospital against the Israeli military's orders and become a potential target, or exit the compound into an apocalyptic landscape where bombings and evacuation orders are a part of daily life,” Lisa Macheiner, MSF's project coordinator in Gaza, said in a statement. "Hospitals should be considered as safe places and shouldn't even be evacuated in the first place."

In a Nasser update posted to social media Thursday morning, MSF said that "following shelling this morning, our staff reported a chaotic situation, with an undetermined number of people killed and injured."

"Our medical staff have had to flee the hospital, leaving patients behind," the group said. "Israeli forces set up a checkpoint to screen people leaving the compound; one of our colleagues was detained at this checkpoint. We call for his safety and the protection of his dignity."

MSF demanded that the Israeli military "immediately stop this attack, as it endangers medical staff and patients who are still stuck inside the facility."

This post has been updated with new comments from Médecins Sans Frontières.

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