Ramallah, October 18, 2023—Around 500 Palestinians seeking shelter and medical care at Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City were killed in an Israeli attack last night.
The attack at Al-Ahli Hospital killed at least 471 Palestinians and was caused by an Israeli airstrike, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza. The attack occurred while Al-Ahli hospital was overwhelmed with thousands of Palestinians seeking shelter amid the Israel military’s relentless bombardment of the Gaza Strip. Many of those killed in the attack were internally displaced, according to news media reports.
Previously, Israeli forces fired two artillery shells at Al-Ahli hospital on October 14, according to Al Jazeera. Israeli military officials called the hospital director the next day, saying “We warned you yesterday with two shells,” and insisted the hospital evacuate.
At least one million Palestinians are displaced across the Gaza Strip amid nonstop Israeli airstrikes and shelling. On October 12, Israeli authorities issued an evacuation order giving the 1.1 million Palestinians living in northern Gaza only 24 hours to evacuate to the south. The Israeli evacuation order caused mass panic in Gaza as families attempted to flee to the south, even though there is no safe route or destination amid destroyed roads and continued Israeli airstrikes and shelling. The evacuation order included all hospitals, schools, and shelters in northern Gaza. Many Palestinians remain in the north as Israeli airstrikes and shelling continue throughout the entire Gaza Strip.
At least 57 separate Israeli attacks killed 16 health care workers and injured 28 others between October 7 and 16, according to the World Health Organization. At least 17 hospitals and 23 ambulances have also been damaged. Four hospitals in northern Gaza have been evacuated and are no longer operational.
Israeli forces have killed a Palestinian child approximately every 15 minutes, totaling around 1,200 children since the Israeli military unleashed a massive military offensive on the Gaza Strip on October 7 after Palestinian armed groups fired rockets toward Israel and breached the Israeli perimeter fence surrounding Gaza, launching attacks inside Israel. Israeli forces initiated a large-scale military operation dubbed Operation Iron Swords.
The fatality and injury numbers provided by the Ministry of Health in Gaza only account for people admitted to hospitals, so at least an estimated additional 1,300 Palestinians are missing under the rubble of destroyed buildings, including at least 600 children, according to the Ministry of Interior, indicating the actual death toll is much higher.
An Israeli airstrike struck an UNRWA school in the Al-Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza yesterday, killing six Palestinians and injuring a dozen more. More than 4,000 displaced Palestinians are sheltering there, according to UNRWA.
Al-Ahli Hospital is located in central Gaza city and is run by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. The hospital, which is the oldest in Gaza, offers screenings for early detection of breast cancer, psychological support for children and their caregivers, and free medical care for malnourished children. Al-Ahli Hospital also offers free care for burn injuries.
As the attack on Al-Ahli Hospital gained widespread international attention prompting many world leaders to condemn the attack, Israeli authorities soon began attributing the blast to a misfired rocket launched by the Palestinian armed group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a claim that was denied by the armed group. Eyewitnesses in and near the hospital have indicated that it was an Israeli attack.
Israeli authorities have previously resorted to disinformation campaigns to deny or justify the direct and targeted killing of Palestinians, including children, civilians, and journalists.
On May 15, 2014, Nadeem Siam Nawarra, 17, and Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh Salameh Abu Daher, 16, were shot and killed by Israeli forces near Israel’s Ofer military prison in the occupied West Bank town of Beitunia, according to documentation collected by DCIP. Nadeem sustained a fatal gunshot wound to the chest, while Mohammad was shot in the back about an hour later in nearly the same spot.
CCTV cameras fixed on the building where the boys were shot captured the killings and showed that neither boy posed any lethal or imminent threat to Israeli forces at the time they were killed. The video footage was obtained and released by DCIP on May 19, 2014.
After the footage was released, an Israeli military spokesperson declared on May 20, 2014, that a preliminary investigation conducted by senior commanders “indicates that no live fire was used” during the demonstration.
Video analysis released in November 2014 conducted by Forensic Architecture on behalf of DCIP identified the Israeli border policeman who shot and killed Nadeem Nawara. Although Israeli authorities initially asserted that no live fire was used by Israeli forces on May 15, 2014 protests, Ben Deri, an Israeli paramilitary border police officer, was arrested by Israeli police and faced manslaughter charges.
On July 16, 2014, around 3:30 p.m., Israeli naval forces directly targeted and killed four Palestinian boys while they played on a Gaza City beach during the Israeli military’s 50-day Operation Protective Edge, according to documentation collected by DCIP. An Israeli gunboat shell first struck a container near the harbor, killing Ismail Mohammad Bakr, 9. A second explosion struck the other boys as they ran to safety, killing Ahed Itaf Bakr, 9, Zakaria Ahed Bakr, 10, and Mohammad Ramez Bakr, 11. Four other boys sustained serious injuries in the attack.
Despite eyewitness accounts declaring that the boys were killed by shelling from an Israeli gunboat, Israeli authorities first said they were investigating the incident before announcing, and ultimately trying to justify an unlawful direct attack against civilians, that a preliminary assessment found Hamas fighters were the target of the attack, according to news media reports.
The killings occurred directly in front of a number of foreign journalists staying at the nearby Al-Deira Hotel, including Tyler Hicks, a photographer for the New York Times, who captured photos of the boys’ bodies on the beach after the attack. Responding to the claim that Israeli forces had targeted Hamas fighters, Hicks said, “children, maybe four feet tall, dressed in summer clothes, running from an explosion, don’t fit the description of Hamas fighters,” suggesting the boys were clearly identifiable as children.
A more recent high profile incident involves Israeli forces’ unlawful killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin refugee camp on May 10, 2022. Israeli authorities responded with disinformation in an effort to deny any responsibility, claims that were dismantled in an initial report by Bellingcat on May 14, 2022 and later a forensic video analysis by Forensic Architecture and Al-Haq released in September 2022.
Manmade humanitarian crisis in Gaza
An estimated one million Palestinians in Gaza are displaced, according to UN OCHA.
Since October 11 at 2 p.m. Gaza has experienced a full electricity blackout after Israeli authorities cut the electricity and fuel supply on October 7 and the Gaza Power Plant depleted its reserves, according to UN OCHA. The World Health Organization delivered more than 10,000 liters of fuel to Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip, which will power the hospital’s backup generators for a few more days.
“The State of Israel has no choice but to turn Gaza into a place that is temporarily or permanently impossible to live in,” reservist Major General Giora Eiland told Israeli media. “Creating a severe humanitarian crisis in Gaza is a necessary means to achieve the goal. Gaza will become a place where no human being can exist.”
“Human animals must be treated as such. There will be no electricity and no water [in Gaza], there will only be destruction. You wanted hell, you will get hell,” said Major General Ghassan Alian, head of Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).
Under international law, genocide is prohibited and constitutes the deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group, in whole or in part. Genocide can result from killing or by creating conditions of life that are so unbearable it brings about the group’s destruction.
International humanitarian law prohibits indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks and requires all parties to an armed conflict to distinguish between military targets, civilians, and civilian objects. Deploying explosive weapons in densely-populated civilian areas constitutes indiscriminate attacks and carrying out direct attacks against civilians or civilian objects amounts to war crimes.
Israeli authorities have imposed a closure policy against the Gaza Strip since 2007 by strictly controlling and limiting the entry and exit of individuals; maintaining harsh restrictions on imports including food, construction materials, fuel, and other essential items; as well as prohibiting exports. Israel continues to maintain complete control over the Gaza Strip’s borders, airspace, and territorial waters.