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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

'Where Is the Humanity?' Doctors, WHO Stunned by IDF's Destruction of Gaza Hospital

"The dismantling and degradation of the Nasser Medical Complex is a massive blow to Gaza's health system," said the World Health Organization.

Screenshot from the halls of the hospital via a CNN report

By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams

After Israeli forces refused to grant them access to the besieged facility for weeks, World Health Organization officials were finally allowed to enter Nasser Hospital in southern Gaza over the weekend—and they were "shocked" by the destruction they witnessed.

"There's waste everywhere. Electricity was not working," Dr. Richard Peeperkorn, the WHO's representative for the occupied Palestinian territory, told Al Jazeera, which published a video segment on Tuesday showing footage from inside the hospital and interviews with badly shaken patients and facility staff.

Peeperkorn said that "parts of the hospital are damaged, and some severely damaged," by Israeli shelling.

Dr. Athanasios Gargavanis, a WHO trauma surgeon, described what remained of Nasser's emergency complex as a "death zone."

The WHO said Tuesday that it evacuated dozens of patients in critical condition, including two children, from Nasser and provided medicine and other necessities to the roughly 130 people who remain inside the facility, which Israeli forces had surrounded for weeks before raiding it last week.

Nasser is one of dozens of Gaza hospitals that Israeli forces have attacked and rendered out of service over the past four months. Under international law, it is a war crime to target hospitals unless they are shown to have been "used to commit an act harmful to the enemy."

"Nasser Hospital has no electricity or running water, and medical waste and garbage are creating a breeding ground for disease," the U.N. organization wrote on social media. "WHO staff said the destruction around the hospital was 'indescribable.' The area was surrounded by burnt and destroyed buildings, heavy layers of debris, with no stretch of intact road."

"The dismantling and degradation of the Nasser Medical Complex is a massive blow to Gaza's health system," the WHO added. "Facilities in the south are already operating well beyond maximum capacity and are barely able to receive more patients. WHO repeats its calls for the protection of patients, health workers, health infrastructure, and civilians. Hospitals must not be militarized, misused, or attacked."

Israeli forces stormed Nasser last Thursday, claiming without providing evidence that Hamas had used the facility to hold hostages. Power cutoffs stemming from the raid killed several oxygen-dependent patients, according to Gaza health officials, and at least one person was killed by an Israeli attack on Nasser's orthopedic department.

Israel reportedly arrested several of the facility's doctors.

"Where is the humanity? Why this is happening to us?" Dr. Ahmad Moghrabi, head of plastic surgery at Nasser, asked in an interview with Al Jazeera. "How many of us have to die just to listen to us to stop these crimes?"

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders, said Tuesday that it is "deeply concerned for the well-being" of the patients who remain inside Nasser and called for their evacuation.

MSF said its staff members fled Nasser out of fear for their lives as Israeli snipers targeted people inside and around the facility.

"The situation in Nasser Hospital is yet another example of the way healthcare facilities are being dismantled one by one in this war," said Guillemette Thomas, MSF's medical coordinator for Palestine. "Even though they were initially told they could stay inside the facility, medical staff and patients were put in danger in a place where they should have been protected. We are outraged that once again they have had to pay a heavy price."

Jake Johnson is a senior editor and staff writer for Common Dreams.

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