Fourteen patients evacuated from Gaza hospital as Israeli raid continues

Credit: REUTERS/ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES

By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Dan Williams

CAIRO/JERUSALEM, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Fourteen patients were evacuated from a Gaza hospital that has been raided by Israeli troops, the Gaza health ministry and the United Nations said on Monday, as Israel denied its military operations had stopped the hospital from functioning.

The sides gave conflicting accounts of the situation at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, Gaza's second-largest, with Israel denying an assertion by the Gaza ministry's spokesperson that its forces had detained the hospital director.

The ministry said the evacuated patients, including five who required kidney dialysis and three intensive care cases, were moved from the hospital to others in Gaza thanks to efforts by the World Health Organization, a U.N. agency.

"There are still more than 180 patients and 15 doctors and nurses inside Nasser," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus later said in a post on X.

"The hospital is still experiencing an acute shortage of food, basic medical supplies, and oxygen. There is no tap water and no electricity, except a backup generator maintaining some lifesaving machines," he said, urging Israel to allow safe and sustained access to Nasser to continue lifesaving efforts.

His post contained a video showing a WHO trauma surgeon, Dr Athanasios Gargavanis, wearing a blue U.N. flak jacket and helmet as he walked through dark corridors inside the hospital during the evacuation mission on Sunday.

The video showed medics in similar protective gear carrying patients on stretchers by flashlight.

"We managed to move 14 patients, eight of them are non-walking patients and the rest are walking patients. Two of them needed ventilation. We have a patient with tracheostomy and a patient who's intubated with a head injury," Gargavanis said.

The U.N. humanitarian office said on Monday the Israeli military operation in the hospital complex was ongoing.

Nasser Hospital is the latest health facility to become a theatre of war in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, now in its fifth month.

Israel says Hamas, the Islamist group that has run Gaza since 2007, uses hospitals for cover. Hamas denies this and says Israel's allegations serve as a pretext to destroy the healthcare system.

The war was triggered by a Hamas attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which 1,200 people were killed and 253 taken hostage, according to Israel.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel has responded with an air and ground assault that according to Gaza's tallies has killed more than 29,000 Palestinians and wounded more than 69,000. The war has displaced most of the enclave's 2.3 million people and reduced much of it to rubble.

DISPUTED ARREST

Ashraf Al-Qidra, spokesperson for the Gaza health ministry, said Israeli forces had detained 70 staff and volunteers at the hospital, including its director Dr Nahed Abu Taeema.

The Israeli army denied Abu Taeema had been detained and said it was not aware of 70 other arrests.

The army had previously said it had apprehended hundreds of Hamas militants who were hiding in Nasser Hospital, some posing as medical staff, and had released images of weapons it said were found there.

"IDF (Israel Defense Forces) troops conducted activities against terror infrastructure and terrorist operatives at the Nasser Hospital," a spokesperson said.

"In addition, the IDF operated in cooperation with the hospital director and the medical team in order to enable the continued functioning of the hospital. The troops also engaged in a dialogue with the director a few days ago."

Reuters was unable to reach Abu Taeema by phone.

COGAT, an Israeli Defense Ministry liaison agency involved in coordinating aid deliveries to Gaza, said Nasser Hospital had remained functional at all times during the army's raids.

"We facilitated humanitarian aid and supplies to the hospital and coordinated a @UN team to evacuate the patients," COGAT said on X.

It described the army's actions as "a precise activity against the Hamas terror organization at the Nasser Hospital, with a key objective to ensure that the Nasser hospital continues its operations".

It listed items it said had been delivered to the hospital with its help, including diesel fuel, food and drinking water, a replacement generator and medicines donated by the WHO.

Hospitals in northern Gaza had been partially operating in recent weeks but were now at risk of shutting down again, the Gaza health ministry.

(Additional reporting by Emma Farge and Tala Ramadan; Writing by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Sharon Singleton and Timothy Heritage)

((estelle.shirbon@thomsonreuters.com))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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