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Palestinians leaving the area of Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis in Southern Gaza in late January. Alamy
Middle East

Thousands told to evacuate largest hospital in south Gaza as 9 dead after Israel strikes Lebanon

Four people from the same family have been killed in a suspected Israeli strike in Lebanon.

THOUSANDS OF PATIENTS have been ordered to evacuate the largest hospital in Khan Younis, southern Gaza by Israeli Defence Forces.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have said the Israeli Defence Forces knocked down the main gate into the Nasser hospital today and forced thousands of displaced Palestinians inside to evacuate.

The medical NGO has said its teams on the ground in Gaza have witnessed at least five people die and ten others wounded after shots were fired directly at the Khan Younis hospital.

Many displaced Palestinians had been sheltering in the Nasser hospital, the largest hospital in Southern Gaza, as a result of the ongoing bombardment of the Khan Younis province by Israel, according to the charity.

MSF’s Gazan coordinator, Lisa Machenier, said: “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 part of daily life.”

“Hospitals should be considered as safe places and shouldn’t even be evacuated in the first place,” she added.

Nine dead in Lebanon

Elsewhere in the Middle East, the Israeli army launched its latest slew of strikes on south Lebanon, killing nine people according to the AFP news agency.

While the rocket attack was not immediately claimed, the exchanges of fire raised fears of a broader conflict between Israel and militant group Hezbollah. 

Today also marks the worst single-day civilian death toll in Lebanon since cross-border hostilities heated up in October.

houla-lebanon-12th-feb-2024-people-stand-among-the-rubble-of-a-house-destroyed-in-an-israeli-airstrike-in-houla-lebanon-on-feb-11-2024-two-hezbollah-fighters-and-two-members-of-al-quds-brigad People stand among the rubble of a house destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Houla, Lebanon, on 11 February. Alamy Alamy

Four civilians from the same family, including two women, were killed in an Israeli strike on a residential building in the city of Nabatiyeh, a Lebanese security source told the AFP news agency, updating an initial toll of three dead.

“The residents of the apartment targeted have no links to Hezbollah,” added the source, requesting anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Earlier, Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency (NNA) said Israeli warplanes targeted a house in south Lebanon’s Sawwaneh, killing three members of the same family, identifying them as a Syrian woman and her child, aged two, and stepchild, 13.

Nowhere to go

MSF says many who were seeking refuge in the Nasser hospital now have nowhere to go as the northern regions of Gaza are now “largely destroyed” and checkpoints have been set up to turn people around.

Meanwhile, further south, Israel has been carrying out airstrikes and announced an extensive ground offensive on the city of Rafah which now hosts 1.5 million people.

At least 28,576 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory military offensive on Gaza, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory.

Dozens of the estimated 250 hostages seized by Gaza militants during the 7 October attack were freed in exchange for Palestinian prisoners during a week-long truce in November.

Egyptian and Qatari mediators in Cairo are hoping to secure a ceasefire that would see more of the roughly 130 hostages still in Gaza released in another swap.

In the last number of days, Tánaiste Micheál Martin and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar have denounced the shelling of Rafah. On Monday, Martin said he is in “no doubt” that the continued bombing of Rafah will “constitute a war crime”.

Today, along with the President of Spain, Varadkar wrote to European Commissioner President Ursula von der Leyen urging a review of the European Union’s trade deal with Israel be conducted amid the “grave” threat in Rafah.

Macheiner said: “People ask us ‘Where is it safe? Where should we go?’ but there is no answer to that, and it really leads to a feeling of despair. People don’t know what to do anymore. They feel unsafe and terrified about what is going to happen next.”

Contains reporting from © AFP 2024