Friday, December 8, 2023

Health Ministry says 21 Gaza hospitals out of service as death toll exceeds 11k

21 hospitals in the Gaza Strip are out of service now. The Israeli military has bombed and shelled the grounds of several medical facilities in northern Gaza, while tanks have surrounded at least four health facilities where thousands of people have taken shelter.

This is according to a new update from Palestinian Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra.

The previous number given by the ministry was 18 hospitals.

The Palestinian death toll from Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip has climbed to 11,078, the Health Ministry in the blockaded enclave said on Friday.

“The victims include 4,506 children, 3,027 women, and 678 elderly people, while 27,490 people were injured,” al-Qudra told a news conference in Gaza City.

He added 2,700 people, including 1,500 children, were also reported to be trapped under the rubble of buildings flattened by Israeli strikes.

“The Israeli aggression has left 198 medics dead and 53 ambulances destroyed,” the spokesman added.

“Israel targeted 135 health institutions and put 21 hospitals and 47 primary care health centers out of service,” he continued.

Israel has launched relentless air and ground attacks on the Gaza Strip since a cross-border attack by Hamas on Oct. 7. Nearly 1,600 Israelis have been killed since then, according to official figures.

Besides the large number of casualties and massive displacements, basic supplies are running low for Gaza’s 2.3 million residents due to an Israeli siege.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has also called for the “immediate protection of all civilians, including humanitarian workers and medical personnel” in Gaza, as it warns that the besieged enclave’s health system has collapsed.

“The healthcare system in Gaza has reached a point of no return risking the lives of thousands of wounded, sick and displaced people,” a statement from the ICRC said.

It added that ICRC teams in Gaza “have witnessed horrendous images that have now gotten worse due to sharpened hostilies”.

Children’s hospitals have been heavily damaged by the fighting, the ICRC noted.

“Any military operation around hospitals must consider the presence of civilians, who are protected under international humanitarian law”.

“The rules of war are clear. Hospitals are specially protected facilities under international humanitarian law,” it noted.

The Palestinian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates also announced Israel “kidnaps hospitals as hostages for extortion” in Gaza.

In a statement, the ministry said Israel was continuing its siege of hospitals to “blackmail” the international community for “political gains” and to force Palestinians to move to the south in a “new episode of genocide”.

The ministry also called on the international community to respect its position on protecting civilians and to apply pressure on the “occupying state” to commit to this.

During the past few hours, the Israeli military has been surrounding three hospitals in Gaza City and the Indonesian Hospital in the north.

Using tanks and armoured vehicles, they have closed a roughly 100-metre perimeter around these hospitals, still sheltering thousands of wounded and displaced people.

People have sent appeals from inside al-Rantisi Hospital and Nasser Hospital, asking to be allowed to flee.

The Israeli military ordered the evacuation of these hospitals, but without assurances from international organisations like the Red Cross, people are not taking that risk.

The journey from Nasser and al-Rantisi hospitals to the east of Salah al-Din Street in Gaza City is very dangerous and has been hit repeatedly by air strikes.

Israel has also attacked four hospitals in Gaza, including the enclave’s biggest medical complex, resulting in what appear to be multiple casualties, according to the health ministry.

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