Yesterday, a strike hit Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza City, killing hundreds, according to the AP, mostly patients receiving treatment, healthcare workers, and those seeking shelter. This is the deadliest attack in the Palestinian territories going back to 2008 and the most destructive on a healthcare facility. In a distressing recurrence of a pattern witnessed in Syria and Ukraine, the strikes in Gaza over the past nine days have apparently made little distinction between civilian and military targets, destroyed medical facilities, and killed first responders.
Insecurity Insight has documented the killing of at least 46 medical personnel, including medical students, in only 10 days in the Gaza Strip. To date, 15 medical facilities—including six hospitals— and 23 ambulances have been affected. Additionally, in the West Bank and Jerusalem, healthcare workers are being detained and injured while transferring patients to hospitals, and ambulances are under attack. All of these tallies were totaled before yesterday’s attack on Al Ahli, about which numbers are still being documented.
The devastating toll on civilians, both killed and injured, puts immense pressure on a strained medical system. More than 3,000 civilians in Gaza, including over 1000 children, have been killed, and 9,700 people, including more than 2,450 children, have been injured. According to WHO’s Health Cluster, there are a total of 3,500 hospital beds in Gaza (this number will be lower after yesterday’s strike). Yet, evacuation orders would apply to 23 hospitals in north Gaza, reducing overall capacity to only 2,000 beds. Already, four hospitals in the north are no longer operating. As the number of injured continues to rise, the available bed capacity decreases, intensifying the critical situation.
The UN warns of a humanitarian disaster, and the World Health Organization reports that hospitals are ‘overflowing’ as people seek safety. The WHO is particularly concerned about disease outbreaks due to mass displacement and poor water and sanitation.
SAMS echoes the calls of UN Secretary-General Guterres for all parties to abide by International Humanitarian Law, emphasizing the imperative to respect civilian life and infrastructure. Drawing from direct experience of hundreds of attacks on hospitals in Syria, SAMS understands the devastating toll on communities when medical facilities are attacked.