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MIDDLE EAST CRISIS

Gaza hospital air strike ‘targeted children and ripped their bodies into pieces’ — doctors recount the horror

Gaza hospital air strike ‘targeted children and ripped their bodies into pieces’ — doctors recount the horror
The scene of destruction at al-Ahli Arab Hospital after an air strike in Gaza City, 17 October 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Mohammed Saber)

The scenes of destruction from the hospital were horrific even by the standards of the past days, which have confronted the world with relentless images, first of Israelis slaughtered in their homes and then of Palestinian families buried under rubble from Israel’s retaliatory strikes.

The head of orthopaedic surgery at al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, Fadel Naim, had just finished a procedure when he heard a huge explosion and his department filled with people screaming for help. 

“People came running into the surgery department screaming, ‘Help us, help us, there are people killed and wounded inside the hospital’,” he said. He found the hospital full of dismembered bodies and wounded people. 

“We tried to save whoever could be saved but the number was too great for the hospital team,” he said. 

The explosion at the hospital on Tuesday killed hundreds of Palestinians and wrecked a diplomatic mission by US President Joe Biden, who arrived in Israel on Wednesday to calm the region but was snubbed by Arab leaders who called off an emergency summit. 

Palestinian officials blamed an Israeli air strike for the blast. Israel said the blast was caused by a failed rocket launch by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, which denied blame. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Middle East Crisis News Hub

Dr Ibrahim Al-Naqa was proud of the 100-year-old Baptist hospital. In a region of conflict, it welcomed all faiths, offering patients a church and a mosque. 

On Tuesday, people seeking shelter from the fiercest fighting between the Israeli military and the Palestinian militant group Hamas in decades walked into the hospital to their deaths.  

“This place created a safe haven for women and children, those who escaped the Israeli bombing into this hospital, those who saw this place as a safe haven,” Ibrahim said. 

“Without warning this hospital was targeted. We don’t know what the shell is called but we saw the results of it when it targeted children and ripped their bodies into pieces.” 

The scene of destruction at al-Ahli Arab Hospital after an air strike in Gaza City, 17 October 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Mohammed Saber)

According to Palestinian authorities in Gaza, hundreds of people have been killed in an air strike to the hospital in Gaza on 17 October. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Mohammed Saber)

A doctor at the scene of al-Ahli Arab Hospital after an air strike in Gaza City, 17 October 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Mohammed Saber)

Region in turmoil 

The death toll from the hospital explosion was by far the highest of any single incident in Gaza during the current violence, and saw protests erupt in the occupied West Bank and the wider region, including in Jordan and Turkey. 

The blast inflamed a region in crisis after Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, carried out a cross-border rampage against communities in southern Israel on 7 October in which at least 1,300 people were killed and hostages were taken. 

Israel responded with the heaviest-ever air strikes on the blockaded Gaza Strip and has massed troops and tanks on its border. 

Before Tuesday’s blast, health authorities in Gaza said at least 3,000 people had died in 11 days of Israeli bombardment. 

The scenes of destruction from the hospital were horrific even by the standards of the past days, which have confronted the world with relentless images, first of Israelis slaughtered in their homes and then of Palestinian families buried under rubble from Israel’s retaliatory strikes. 

A Gaza civil defence chief gave a death toll of 300 at the hospital, while health ministry sources put it at 500. Bodies were still being pulled from the rubble on Wednesday. 

“The massacre carried out by the Israeli occupation at the Baptist Hospital is the massacre of the 21st century and it is a continuation of its crimes since the Nakba of our people in 1948,” said Salama Marouf, the head of the Hamas government media office. 

“Nakba”, or “catastrophe”, refers to when many Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes during the 1948 war that accompanied Israel’s creation. DM

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  • Martin V says:

    I don’t have words, nor can I comprehend the type of people who would do this. Regardless of who did this I see no good side in this war, I really don’t. Only thousands upon thousands of innocent civilians including children being slaughtered.

  • Ben Harper says:

    Are you going to edit your article and tell the truth? Are you going to admit that the evidence has proven that it was a Hamas rocket that hit the hospital?

    • Hmmm 🤔🤔🤔 i also wonder if they are going to … Always jumping to be the first to report without verifying the facts or are they deliberately deceiving the masses? Just cant trust these reporters anymore…

      • Ben Harper says:

        The author’s name says it all

        • Graeme Bird says:

          With that logic so does your name say it all. Best to avoid racial stereotyping at all times and especially in tragedies like this when the victims are innocent civilians regardless of the source of the bomb (which is unproved though much more likely to have been from Israel given the number of bombs they have rained down on Gaza and their recent deletion of a post on Twitter initially showing a false rocket attack to prove their allegation).

      • I mean this with utmost kindness – you need to do your research. Hamas is no stranger to violence, we know this. However, the bombing of the hospital was not carried out by Palestinians. It was carried out by Israelis.
        1) Hamas would never bomb a hospital with such great heritage and history. The hospital has existed for 100 years and included both a Mosque and a Church
        2) Israel has released roughly 600 bombs since the original attack by Hamas. Its not difficult to assume that they would be responsible for this considering the amount of bombs they have let off
        3) Western media operates on the basis of anti-Palestine propaganda. Of course they are going to paint Hamas out as the perpetrators. Think about the kind of propaganda that painted Jewish people out to be horrible people during WW2. Its happening again, but this time, at the expense of Palestinians
        This is not a ‘conflict’, a ‘war’, or a ‘dispute’. This is a genocide. Historically, we can examine the atrocities committed by Israelis, and label it as genocide. Religion also does not play a role in this. This is about land – land that was originally occupied by Palestinians and then used to welcome Jewish refugees after WW2 – who then completely took over the land.
        So, I ask of you kindly, please do your research. There is a lot more than what you absorb through an anti-Palestine lens.

        • Ben Harper says:

          Rubbish. No hamas didn’t bomb their own hospital, however, a rocket that THEY launched failed and came down in the hospital parking lot. Everything written in this piece is propoganda garbage and has been proven to be false over and over. So before posting drivel, do your own homework first

        • Ben Harper says:

          Where are the photos of the damaged hospital?
          Where are the photo’s of the children targeted in this “strike”
          Where is the evidence of ANYONE killed in this strike?

          There isn’t any photos or evidence because the hospital WAS NOT HIT. A few cars were burnt out in a car park bet hey, lets not allow facts to get in the way of a good propaganda rant against the people that actually had nothing to do with this misfired rocket

        • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

          Your commentary is thoughtful, and your kindness and empathy is obvious. As an affected party I am far less objective. Unfortunately, many of the conclusions you draw are either over-simplified to fit an emotional narrative, but in most instances are simply incorrect.

          On a purely emotional level – notice how when things like 9/11 happened, or the Hamas killings of 7 October on teenage concert-goers and babies decapitated in nurseries – there was widespread dancing in the street in Arab countries, handing out streets and celebrations (which, like the massacres, they gleefully film and post for the world to see). Whereas with this church catastrophe (regardless of blame), we have heard of no Jew globally who celebrates this.

          Be careful of labelling something a “genocide” when the very people who have lost 6 million of their own, in their living memory, understand and know full well the meaning of life …

        • Esskay Esskay says:

          Amazing how people so easily believe the Hamas narrative, a ruthless terrorist organisation, but when Israel makes a statement everyone wants evidence.

  • John B says:

    Looks more like fire damage to me than a warhead explosion. BBC have a pretty balanced article on it. Google Gaza hospital photo’s. There is also a video of a Hamas rocket exploding in the air shortly before the explosion at the hospital.

    • Ben Harper says:

      Evidence shows it was a hamas launched rocket that malfunctioned and that the resultant fire, which was in the hospital car park and not the hospital as the zealots like to claim, was as a result of the large volume of unspent rocket propellant exploding

  • Kirsten du Toit says:

    Irresponsible journalism, this was proven to be terrorist propaganda days ago. Why is this dividing and inflammatory article still up here? Is this your legacy DM?

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