Health Ministry says medical services stretched to the limit
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The morgues at European Hospital and Abu Yousef Al Najjar Hospital in southern Gaza are full after overnight Israeli strikes on Rafah that killed more than 93 people, Palestinian Health Ministry spokesman Dr Ashraf Al Qudra told media.
“Every square kilometre in Rafah contains between 25,000 to 27,000 people, which means a military operation would be catastrophic,” he said, speaking from the Al Helal Emirati Maternity Hospital in Rafah.
He said triage was being performed on incoming patients as the number of casualties from the strikes exceeds the capacity of the small hospitals, and that emergency units were still pulling people out of the rubble.
The strikes came after US President Joe Biden urged Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to shield civilians from any military operation in Gaza’s southernmost city. Israel should not proceed without a “credible and executable plan” for their safety and support, he said.
Video of the overnight strikes posted by the Palestinian news agency Wafa shows smoke filling the night sky amid the sound of bombardment.
The militant group Hamas said the strikes hit at least 14 houses and three mosques in various parts of Rafah and that “more than 100 people” were killed.
The Israeli military later said a “series of strikes” it conducted on southern Gaza were “concluded”.
The heavy bombardment caused widespread panic in Rafah because many people were asleep when the strikes started, Reuters reported. Some feared Israel had begun its ground offensive in the city.
Currently, about 1.4 million Palestinians are crowded into Rafah, with many living in tents, with food, water and medicine becoming increasingly scarce, the UN said.
Aid agencies say an assault on Rafah would be catastrophic. It is the last relatively safe place in the devastated enclave.
On Monday, Dr Al Qudra also said that food had run out for staff, patients and displaced people in the besieged Al Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis. The shelling surrounding the medical complex had also caused “the ceilings in the housing units and operations department to fall”, he said in a statement.
“Nobody is able to move in the complex’s yard as Israeli snipers are stationed nearby,” Dr Al Qudra said. At least seven civilians were killed and 14 staff and displaced people were injured inside the complex as a result of Israeli attacks, he said.
The shelling also caused damage to the hospital complex’s sewage system, causing sewage to seep into the facility. Dr Al Qudra said it was an urgent need for a technical team to be allowed to safely move around the complex’s buildings to fix the damage.
Israeli strikes on Gaza have killed 28,340 Palestinians and wounded 67,984 since October 7, the Health Ministry in Gaza said on Monday.
The army usually orders civilians to leave their homes and towns without any specific evacuation plans before they conduct strikes.
Hamas said the Rafah strikes were a continuation of the “genocidal war” that Israel has waged against the Palestinian people. It accused Israel of attempting forced displacement in Gaza.
Mr Netanyahu has ordered his army to prepare a ground offensive on Rafah, Gaza’s last major population centre that troops have yet to enter after Hamas’s October 7 attacks sparked the war.