Israel tells Gaza health workers: Get out, we’re about to bomb your hospital
Palestinian medics help a man wounded in Israeli strikes at a Gaza hospital, Friday, Oct. 13, 2023. | Ali Mahmoud / AP

Imagine you are a nurse or doctor and there’s a war where you live. A week of bombing has killed thousands. The enemy is going to invade and destroy living space and so has ordered all civilians to be evacuated from the region.

The hospital where you work has to close down, and everyone has to go—nurses, doctors, patients, those in intensive care, small babies in incubators, even bodies in the morgue.

Astoundingly, you’ve been ordered to no longer heal the sick, repair injured bodies, or save lives.

This is the situation facing healthcare workers right now at the Al-Awda Hospital in Jabalia in northern Gaza. Calls came into the hospital from the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) on Saturday, Oct. 14. The order: Everybody has to be out by 10 AM the next day because the hospital would be bombed.

On Oct. 13, day seven of Israel’s war against the Palestinians, the Israeli military ordered all the people of northern Gaza, 1.1 million of them, to leave for southern Gaza within 24 hours. The warning came ahead of an expected Israeli ground offensive.

Al-Awda Hospital, established in 1997, is a general hospital and the main provider of maternity services in the northern part of Gaza. It’s also a training hospital for nurses. In 2015, it was heavily damaged by an Israeli assault, and now it’s apparently been slated for destruction by the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Dr. Nisreen al-Shorafa, head of the emergency room at the hospital, talked with one of the Israeli officials on the telephone. According to Aljazeera, she emphasized the “inhumanity and impossibility” of moving people out of the hospital under such dire circumstances. “We decided not to leave,” she told the reporter. In all, 35 nurses and doctors are staying. She said she had slept only ten hours in seven days.

According to CNN, Palestinian Health Minister Mai Al-Kaila “blamed Israel for killing 28 health care workers and damaging medical centers.” He indicated a general hospital and a children’s hospital had already been closed, the latter having been hit by “internationally prohibited white phosphorus bombs.”

Dr. Abdullah Al-Qishawi, head of the renal disease section at the Al-Shifa Hospital, warned that some 1,200 patients with kidney failure may die soon due to the lack of medications and electricity, which is required to power dialysis machines.

The Israeli military on Oct. 13 ordered that the Palestine Red Crescent Society’s Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City be evacuated. The deadline of 6:00 AM on Oct. 14 was later extended to 4:00 PM. Hospital officials insist that the facility will not be emptied.

The Jordanian media reported on Monday, Oct. 16, that the neighborhood where Al-Quds is located was under bombardment. The fate of that hospital—along with Al-Awda—is unknown as of press time.

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W. T. Whitney Jr.
W. T. Whitney Jr.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.