Israeli forces attacked the last operational hospital in northern Gaza on Sunday night, according to the Health Ministry and Gaza hospital officials, who added that several medical staff were briefly detained.
Israel released 21 medical staff from Al-Awda Hospital after detaining them for three hours, according to a statement from the Al-Awda Health and Community Association, which runs the hospital. The group said the hospital’s director, Dr. Ahmed Muhanna, remained in Israeli custody.
The health ministry said the detainees were stripped naked and interrogated, calling conditions “inhumane.”
The Israeli army did not immediately comment on the accounts of the association and the Ministry of Health. Israel has in the past defended the mass detention of men in northern Gaza, saying it had to strip them to check for explosives and interrogate them to determine whether any were linked to Hamas.
The ministry added that it feared Israeli forces would repeat the scenes that occurred at Kamal Adwan Hospital, where Israeli forces destroyed part of its building and interrogated staff members for a week, according to the ministry. Ministry of Health and two people present on the scene.
The Israeli military defended its actions at Kamal Adwan, saying the hospital was used by Hamas as a command and control center and saying it had detained around 80 fighters. Gaza health officials said some hospital employees, including its director, were among those detained.
Hamas and medical staff at other Gaza hospitals have denied Israeli allegations that the hospitals were used by the Palestinian armed group. The Israelis claim to have discovered tunnels and weapons, notably in the territory’s largest hospital complex, Al-Shifa, which they consider as proof of their allegations.
The Health Ministry said on Monday that no hospitals were no longer operational in the northern strip after Kamal Adwan and Al-Awda were taken out of service following Israeli raids. Both hospitals had severely limited operations in recent weeks due to nearby ground fighting and a severe lack of fuel and supplies.
According to Gaza health officials, more than 90 medical professionals have been arrested since Israel began its bombing and ground invasion of Gaza, including the director of Al-Shifa Hospital, Dr. Mohammed Abu Salmiya . The Health Ministry said on Monday that Dr Salmiya remained in detention and was being interrogated “in a climate of starvation and extreme cold”.
A volunteer at Kamal Adwan Hospital, Osama Al-Absi, said in an interview on Sunday that he was among those arrested and later released by Israeli forces. He said the detainees were taken to an Israeli military base in Gaza, stripped naked and left in a ditch for hours. “Most of us were beaten and insulted,” he said.
Al-Awda hospital, located in the northern district of Jabaliya, had been surrounded for nearly two weeks by Israeli soldiers and tanks while ground fighting raged nearby, according to the association that manages it.
It adds that 43 patients and 96 staff members were “trapped inside the hospital” for at least part of last week, and that the hospital was hit by gunfire and artillery shelling. Israelis over the past two months.
The few hospitals still operational in the south have also been affected in recent days.
The Nasser Medical Complex, located in Khan Younis, the largest city in southern Gaza, was hit on Sunday by an unexploded Israeli artillery shell, with shrapnel and debris killing a 13-year-old boy and injuring three others, according to the Ministry of Health. The child, Dunia Abu Muhsen, lost her leg in a strike on her home that killed her father, mother and two of her brothers a few weeks ago. She was being treated in hospital when she was killed, the ministry said.
The Israeli military did not immediately comment on the description of what happened.
Ameera Harouda contributed reporting from Doha, Qatar.