Gaza: Battle of Khan Younis threatens largest operational hospital

Israeli forces engaged in the battle to seize the main city in southern Gaza have intensified their bombardment near the largest operational hospital in the enclave. This has prompted patients and residents to flee, fearing that the ongoing conflict may devastate the city.

Publication: 18.01.2024 - 15:29
Gaza: Battle of Khan Younis threatens largest operational hospital
Abone Ol google-news

The ongoing battle in Khan Younis, now in its fourth month, represents the most significant confrontation of the year. The city is currently providing shelter to hundreds of thousands of people who fled from the north earlier in the war.

Medecins Sans Frontieres, a charity with doctors at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, reported that patients and displaced individuals taking refuge there were fleeing in a state of panic. In Rafah, further south, a distressing scene unfolded as 16 bodies, mostly covered in white shrouds, lay on bloodstained cobbles outside a morgue. This included members of the Zameli family, whose home was destroyed in an overnight strike. Tragically, half of the victims were small children, a heartbreaking sight that left onlookers in sorrow.

Amid the rubble of the obliterated home, a girl's tattered schoolbag remained as a poignant reminder of the tragedy. Ten-year-old Mahmoud al-Zameli, a cousin who lived next door and narrowly escaped the devastation, expressed his grief, saying, "Yesterday, I was playing with the children over there. They have all died. I'm the only one still alive."

With over 24,000 Palestinians killed and much of Gaza in ruins after more than three months of war, Israel has indicated its intention to de-escalate ground operations and shift to smaller-scale tactics. However, before doing so, Israel appears resolute in capturing all of Khan Younis, which it claims serves as a key base for Hamas fighters responsible for the October 7th breach of the border, resulting in 1,200 casualties and 240 hostages.

Israelis marked the first birthday of the youngest hostage, Kfir Bibas, who was not among the women and children released during a week-long truce in late November. While Hamas asserts that Kfir, along with his 4-year-old brother Ariel and their mother Shiri, was killed in an Israeli airstrike, no images confirming their deaths have been released, unlike in the cases of other hostages.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, called for global efforts to free Kfir and all the hostages, emphasizing, "His whereabouts are unknown."

As the fighting in Khan Younis encroaches upon Nasser Hospital, the largest functioning hospital in the area, concerns mount that it may face a siege similar to Shifa, the main hospital in the north, captured by Israeli forces in November. Abu El-Abed displaced multiple times with his family during the war, expressed his alarm, stating, "What is happening in Khan Younis now is complete madness: the occupation bombards the city from all directions, both from the air and the ground. It resembles the events in Gaza before the capture of Al Shifa Hospital In the last three days, entire residential districts in the city center and the eastern town of Abassan have been destroyed."

Khan Younis is currently cut off from communication due to a week-old mobile phone and internet blackout. Gazans can only communicate with the outside world by accessing Egyptian or Israeli mobile networks near the border fence.

The Israeli military reported that it had killed 60 fighters in the previous 24 hours, including 40 in Khan Younis. While these figures are difficult to verify, they provide some insight into the location and intensity of the fighting. With two-thirds of Gaza's hospitals, including all medical facilities in the northern half of the enclave, already non-functional, losing Nasser Hospital would severely limit the trauma care available for Gaza's 2.3 million residents.

According to Medecins Sans Frontieres, Israeli forces heavily bombed the area near Nasser Hospital without issuing an evacuation order, causing patients and displaced civilians seeking refuge there to flee in panic. Leo Cans, the Head of Mission for Palestine at MSF, who reached the hospital, described the situation as dire, with widespread bombings and shootings, resulting in complex injuries requiring extensive surgery. He emphasized the urgent need for the violence to cease.

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