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People fleeing the violence in Khan Younis Alamy Stock Photo
Nasser Hospital

Thousands forced to flee as Israeli forces shell and raid south Gaza's largest hospital

Khan Younis has been the main target in Israel’s campaign in recent weeks.

ISRAELI SOLDIERS HAVE stormed the largest hospital in south Gaza, where thousands of displaced people had been taking shelter. 

Israel Defence Forces (IDF) raided the Nasser hospital in Khan Younis earlier today, hours after shelling and firing on the building, killing one patient and injuring six more, the Gaza health ministry said.

The hospital was shelled in the early hours of this morning, despite the IDF having told medical staff and patients they could remain in the facility.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) staff reported a chaotic situation in the aftermath of this morning’s shelling, with multiple people injured and one of their colleagues still missing. 

The medical NGO’s staff have had to flee the hospital, leaving patients behind.

MSF said Israeli forces set up a checkpoint to screen people leaving the compound and one of their staff members was detained. 

The raid comes a day after the IDF issued an order demanding the evacuation of the hospital. 

MSF said yesterday that its staff had witnessed at least five people die and ten others wounded after shots were fired directly at the Khan Younis hospital in recent days. 

Khan Younis has been the main target in Israel’s campaign in recent weeks. 

Dr Khaled Alserr, one of the remaining surgeons at Nasser Hospital, told AP that the seven patients struck early on Thursday were already being treated for past wounds.

Yesterday, a doctor was lightly wounded when a drone opened fire on the upper stories of the hospital, he said.

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

The Israeli military said yesterday that it had opened a secure corridor for displaced people to leave the hospital but would allow doctors and patients to remain there.

Videos circulating online showed scores of people walking out of the facility on foot carrying their belongings on their shoulders.

The IDF had already ordered the evacuation of Nasser Hospital and surrounding areas last month.

But as with other health facilities that Israel has invaded in Gaza, doctors said patients were unable to safely leave or be relocated, and thousands of people displaced by fighting elsewhere remained there.

Palestinians say nowhere is safe in the besieged territory, as Israel continues to carry out strikes in all parts of it.

The Gaza health ministry said last week that Israeli snipers on surrounding buildings were preventing people from entering or leaving the hospital.

Prior to Thursday’s strike, it said 10 people had been killed inside the complex over the past week, including three shot and killed on Tuesday.

Israeli strikes in Lebanon

Israel has claimed responsibility for killing a Hezbollah commander, his deputy and another fighter in an airstrike in Lebanon yesterday. 

Ali al-Debs and the other two fighters were killed last night “in a precise air strike carried out by an IDF aircraft on a Hezbollah military structure in Nabatiyeh”, the military said in a statement.

Israel carried out a number of airstrikes against its northern neighbour yesterday that left 10 civilians dead, making it the deadliest day in Lebanon since recent cross-border fighting between Israel and Hezbollah began. 

The Iran-backed Lebanese movement, and Hamas ally, said today that it had fired dozens of rockets into northern Israel in a “first response” to yesterday’s strikes. 

“In a first response to the massacres in Nabatiyeh and Sawaneh, Islamic resistance fighters fired dozens of Katyusha-type rockets at Kiryat Shmona,” an Israeli town near the Lebanese border, Hezbollah said in a statement.

Nowhere is safe

Hundreds of thousands of Gazans have been driven into the southern city of Rafah, seeking shelter in a sprawling makeshift encampment near the Egyptian border.

“We were displaced from Gaza City to the south,” said Ahlam Abu Assi. “(Then) they told us to go to Rafah, so we went to Rafah.

“We can’t keep going and coming,” she added. “There is no safe place for us.”

Australia, Canada and New Zealand were the latest to warn Israel not to launch a ground offensive in the city, issuing a joint statement saying it would be “devastating” for 1.5 million trapped civilians.

“There is simply nowhere else for civilians to go,” they said.

In Cairo, efforts to secure a ceasefire entered a third day, with negotiators from the United States, Qatar and Egypt trying to broker a deal to suspend the fighting and see an exchange of captives between Israel and Hamas. 

CIA director William Burns joined his Israeli counterpart for talks with mediators on Tuesday, while a Hamas delegation was in Cairo yesterday.

There was no sign of immediate progress.

With reporting from Press Association and AFP