At least 12 people were killed and dozens wounded in an attack on a hospital in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday morning as fighting escalated around it, according to two hospital staff members and the Gazan health ministry, which blamed Israel for the strike.
The Indonesian Hospital was hit around 2:30 a.m. after Israeli tanks drew closer to the compound amid constant shelling and gunfire, according to a nurse and a hospital administrator. The precise source of the strike could not be independently verified.
Recent video shot in the area and geolocated by The New York Times showed several Israeli tanks within a few hundred yards of the hospital and moving toward it. The two staff members said on Monday that the second floor of the hospital, where dozens of patients and displaced people were sleeping, was hit by artillery fire, and that medical workers were unable to move the dead bodies as fighting continued outside.
“There was chaos, darkness and fire in the department which made it very difficult to evacuate the dead and wounded,” said Mohamad, the nurse. He and the hospital administrator asked that their full names not be used because they feared for their safety.
At least 500 patients and thousands of displaced people were inside the building when the attack happened, the administrator said. “It’s possible that what happened at Al-Shifa Hospital will also happen to us,” he added, referring to Gaza’s largest hospital, which was raided by Israeli forces last week.
Since invading Gaza more than three weeks ago, the Israeli military has steadily surrounded several hospitals in northern Gaza. Israel says that Hamas, the armed group that rules Gaza and launched the devastating Oct. 7 attacks in Israel, has concealed bases inside hospitals, and it has begun releasing videos taken by its forces searching Al-Shifa that it says support its assertion. The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the incident at the Indonesian Hospital.
Proof of an extensive Hamas command center under Al-Shifa has yet to be revealed. The group has denied Israeli accusations that it uses civilian infrastructure and says Israel is committing war crimes by targeting hospitals.
As they close in on the Indonesian Hospital, Israeli forces have been strengthening their hold over northern Gaza and are operating in a crescent-shaped swath in and around Gaza City, the biggest city in the territory, the military says.
Artillery and gunfire have been heard for several days near the Indonesian Hospital, which is in the far northern city of Beit Lahia, and Israeli tanks drew closer to the building on Sunday evening hours before the strike, the administrator said.
After the strike and just before sunrise, dozens of people, including Mohamad, were able to leave in a panic “amid shelling and gunfire,” he said.
A video posted early Monday by a man who had been sharing videos from the hospital for days showed him running out of the hospital compound with others in panic as gunshots ring out. The Times verified that the video was taken at the hospital.
The administrator stayed behind with hundreds of others, including patients on ventilators and in critical condition. “Evacuating them would be very complicated” without coordination with humanitarian organizations and the Israeli military, he said.
The health ministry said in a statement that it was in touch with the International Committee of the Red Cross about a possible evacuation of the wounded. The aid organization said in a statement to The Times that any evacuation would be “extremely complex.”
The head of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on social media that the organization was “appalled” at the reports of the attack, adding: “Health workers and civilians should never have to be exposed to such horror, and especially while inside a hospital.”
The Gazan interior ministry said in a statement that displaced people who had sought shelter at the hospital were killed and wounded in attacks by Israeli forces as they tried to leave. The ministry did not provide further details and the claim could not be independently verified.
The hospital is also running low on fuel, and its main generator could shut down as early as Monday night, the administrator said. The hospital was financed by the Indonesian government and is run by the health ministry.
Ameera Harouda, Malachy Browne, Isabel Kershner and Nader Ibrahim contributed reporting.