November 12, 2023 | The Jerusalem Post

What do we know about hospitals in north Gaza? – explainer

The hospitals in the Gaza Strip have become a main point of contention on the international stage as Israel's invasion of the Hamas-run enclave continues. Here's what we know about them.
November 12, 2023 | The Jerusalem Post

What do we know about hospitals in north Gaza? – explainer

The hospitals in the Gaza Strip have become a main point of contention on the international stage as Israel's invasion of the Hamas-run enclave continues. Here's what we know about them.

As Israel’s ground offensive in Gaza enters its third week, a number of hospitals in northern Gaza have become the center of an international spotlight. This is because the frontline of fighting has now reached several of these medical facilities.

In addition, Israel has accused Hamas of using people in these facilities, and Gazan civilians in general, as human shields. On the other hand, Palestinian voices and reports portray the hospitals as under siege or in the line of fire. 

It’s worth surveying the various medical facilities so that, as news unfolds, more is known about them.

On Sunday morning the World Health Organization said it “has lost communication with its contacts in Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza. As horrifying reports of the hospital facing repeated attacks continue to emerge, we assume our contacts joined tens of thousands of displaced people and are fleeing the area.” WHO director Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus said this was “deeply worrisome and frightening.” 

Israel has been asking people to evacuate northern Gaza, including Gaza City and neighborhoods around it, since mid-October, after Hamas attacked Israel and massacred 1,200 people in Israel. According to Ynet “there are six hospitals and 25 health facilities” in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel had called on them to evacuate. Most of them refused.”

Palestinian news media Wafa said on November 8 that 16 hospitals and 34 health centers in all of the Gaza Strip had already been affected by the war with some closing. Countries are rushing medical aid to Gaza, with Jordan conducting two airdrops in the last week, and the UAE is establishing a field hospital in southern Gaza.  

The following hospitals are in northern Gaza and have been affected by the war.

Shifa Hospital 

Shifa Hospital is the center of much of the concern in Gaza, because it is the largest hospital in the coastal enclave. CNN reported on Sunday overnight that “hostilities around Al-Shifa Hospital Saturday ‘have not stopped,’ according to Médecins Sans Frontières [MSF], also known as Doctors Without Borders.”

Reports at CNN also quoted the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry claiming that the hospital was under siege. “Staff and patients have been unable to leave the Al-Shifa Hospital,” the ministry said. The report quoted the ministry’s director-general, Dr. Munir Al-Bursh, as making several claims.

Israel’s IDF spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said Saturday that “there has been a lot of misinformation from Gaza today, so, I want to clarify the facts. There is no siege, I repeat no siege, on Shifa Hospital. The east side of the hospital is open for the safe passage of Gazans who wish to leave.” 

The modern structure of Shifa was built when Israel controlled Gaza. An article at Ynet notes that “the iconic structure, which has gained international recognition and drawn considerable attention, was designed by Israeli architects.”

Its roots date back many decades. Originally a British Army barracks, it was converted to medical use in 1946, expanded by Egypt after the 1956 Suez Crisis, taken by Israel during the Six Day War, and renovated by Israeli architects in the 1980s.

After Israel left Gaza in 2005 and Hamas took control in 2006, the underground areas of the hospital are alleged to have become a command and control center for the terrorist group. The hospital has between 700-1,400 beds, depending on the reporting source, and a staff of more than 1,400. Another report puts the number of employees at the complex, which covers several acres, at 4,000.  

The hospital is located near the coastline, south of Shati refugee camp and near the marina of Gaza City. As such it is near Rashid Road, the main north-south thoroughfare that runs along the coast. This road is now the center of activity of two IDF divisions, one south of Gaza City, and the other to the north. As such, the hospital is said to be near clashes at the front near Shati camp and elsewhere. It is also near the Rimal neighborhoods which make up the environs of the hospital. 

Quds Hospital 

Quds hospital was established in 2001 in the affluent Tal al-Hawa neighborhood southwest of Gaza City, located about a mile from the coast. It is run by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, according to reports, and has around 200 beds.

According to a Time magazine report on November 11, “the Palestinian Red Crescent said Israeli tanks were 20 meters (65 feet) from al-Quds hospital in Gaza City’s Tal al-Hawa neighborhood, causing ‘a state of extreme panic and fear’ among the 14,000 displaced people sheltering there.” The area of the hospital is residential, although the hospital itself is six stories high. There is an Islamic University campus nearby.  

Nasr and Rantisi hospitals 

The Nasr neighborhood of Gaza City, which includes several medical facilities, is about six kilometers south of the Israeli border, east of the Shati camp and north of the Rimal neighborhood. It is only around a ten-minute drive to Shifa Hospital, which is around two kilometers to the southwest of the area. The Sheikh Radwan neighborhood is to the north and the beach resort area to the northwest. The IDF found a drone manufacturing facility in a civilian home in Sheikh Radwan on Thursday as they moved toward Nasr.  

“The Al-Nasr Children’s Hospital in western Gaza City was rendered inoperative on Friday due to Israeli attacks, leading to the tragic death of a child because of oxygen deprivation,” Anadolu media in Turkey claimed on Friday.

According to reports at Al-Arabiya, this hospital and the medical facilities around it had been evacuated over the weekend. The area includes the hospital, as well as the Al-Rantisi and the Gaza Eye hospitals. Mustafa al-Kahlout, who was said to be the “head of the Al Nasr hospital and Al-Rantisi pediatric hospital in northern Gaza,” had told CNN: “We are completely surrounded, there are tanks outside the hospital, and we cannot leave.” 

The Rantisi hospital is one of the few in the area that specialize in treating children with cancer. According to the Daily Beast, “the medical facility—called the Dr. Musa and Suhaila Nasir Pediatric Cancer Department—operates in Gaza City’s al-Rantisi hospital, in the northern part of the Palestinian enclave.

“For the patients in the al-Rantisi pediatric cancer ward, ‘It’s an impossible situation,’ said Dr. Zeena Salman, an American pediatric oncologist who has volunteered at the facility with the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, the US charity that founded the cancer ward in 2019.” 

According to the IDF on Saturday, “following repeated calls for the residents of Gaza City to evacuate the northern Gaza Strip for their safety, due to military activity in the area, the IDF enabled the evacuation of the Rantisi and Nasser hospitals.

“IDF troops opened and secured an evacuation route yesterday (Friday), along which civilians can go on foot and in ambulances,” the military said. “During IDF activity to secure the corridor, armed terrorists approached the troops and fired RPGs toward them. IDF troops struck the terrorists.” Around 1,000 people had been sheltering in the area; Hamas gunmen were seen in the area as well.  

Kamal Adwan Children’s Hospital 

This facility is in the Beit Lahiya area north of Gaza City, near the Israeli border. In mid-October various media outlets quoted Hussam Abu Safiya, head of pediatrics at the hospital in northern Gaza, saying it did not evacuate despite calls to do so by Israel. The UN had warned at the time that hospitals would run out of fuel in two days on October 15.

The fuel continued to flow despite the warnings. On November 4, CNN reported that “MedGlobal, a US-based organization that supports local health programs for vulnerable populations across the globe, issued an urgent appeal for fuel to power a generator at Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza.”

The Indonesian Hospital 

A new hospital was opened in 2015 with support from Indonesia on the outskirts of Jabalya. It is easily accessed from Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya, the areas that border Israel in northeast Gaza. Middle East Monitor noted that “the old hospital that served the area, Kamal Adwan hospital, has been closed down for renovations and maintenance. The new hospital, built by the Republic of Indonesia contains 110 beds, including 10 for intensive care cases.” 

 “The Indonesian hospital is an important healthcare addition, with high-quality medical facilities to serve the residents of north Gaza,” ministry spokesman Dr. Ashraf Al-Qudra told Quds Press at the time.  The Medical Emergency Rescue Committee (MER-C), an Indonesian humanitarian organization, plays a role at the medical center.

The hospital is near to areas where Israel’s ground operations began. In early November, the IDF claimed that the hospital is located next to Hamas terrorist infrastructure.

It is a four-floor complex shaped like an octagonal fort. Al-Jazeera report on November 12 that “Atef al-Kahlot, the director of the Indonesian Hospital, said his facility is operating only at between 30-40% of capacity and he made an appeal for the world to help.” The report also quoted him saying that “we call on the honorable people of the world, if any of them are left, to put pressure on the occupation forces to supply the Indonesian Hospital and the rest of the hospitals in the Gaza Strip.”

Sheikh Hamad Hospital for Rehabilitation and Prosthetics in Gaza 

This facility is located north of Shati camp near the Blue Beach resort, a short walk from the beach. It was established in 2016 and opened in 2019 with support from Qatar. 

“The Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani Hospital is located north of Gaza City, along the coast,” the IDF spokesperson said on November 4. “Its construction was funded by the Qatari government, and it is called the Qatari Hospital. The military showed images of ‘IDF soldiers exposing a tunnel opening. This is part of our operation—a ground operation on the hospital—which revealed the tunnel that was being used for terror infrastructures in the Qatari Hospital.” 

Qatar’s ambassador for Gaza reconstruction Mohamed al-Emadi disagreed with this claim, saying that it is “without concrete evidence or an independent investigation… and a blatant attempt to justify the occupation’s targeting of civilian facilities, including hospitals, schools, gatherings of population and shelters of displaced people.” Qatar had said back in mid-October that the facility was severely damaged.

Awda hospital 

The Awda Hospital, located in Jabalya east of Shati camp and northeast of Gaza City in the northern Gaza Strip, is one of the largest hospitals in Gaza, according to reports. The IDF warned Awda to evacuate, the MSF rights group said on October 13. In late October, it claimed that the hospital was close to running out of fuel.

ActionAid’s partner “Al-Awda Hospital in Gaza yesterday warned that it will completely shut down operations by Wednesday night as fuel stocks near depletion,” reports posted online by the global human rights and aid federation said on November 8. Turkish media said the area near the hospital was affected by airstrikes the next day. Palestinian Wafa media said that “Al-Awda Hospital is the main and only provider of maternity services in the northern Gaza Strip.” 

Seth J. Frantzman is the author of Drone Wars: Pioneers, Killing Machine, Artificial Intelligence and the Battle for the Future (Bombardier 2021) and an adjunct fellow at The Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


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