Palestinians look at the destruction after an Israeli strike on a residential building in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Friday, Feb. 16, 2024. Image Credit: AP

Gaza Strip: There was growing concern Friday over a key Gaza hospital a day after a raid by the Israeli army, with the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry saying several patients had died there due to a lack of oxygen.

The ministry said the power was cut off and the generators stopped after the raid at the Nasser hospital in the southern city of Khan Yunis, leading to the deaths of five patients.

In recent days, intense fighting has raged in the vicinity of the hospital - one of the Palestinian territory’s last remaining major medical facilities that are still operational.

The Israeli army said its forces at the hospital had taken into custody more than “20 terrorists” suspected of involvement in Hamas’s October 7 attack that sparked the war.

It had said the day before that troops entered the hospital acting on “credible intelligence” that hostages seized in the attack had been held at the facility and that bodies of some may still be inside, but it later said it had not yet found such evidence.

Gaza’s health ministry also raised fears for four other patients in the intensive care unit and three children, saying it held Israel “responsible for the lives of patients and staff considering that the complex is now under its full control”.

‘Pattern of attacks’

Medical charity Doctors Without Borders described a “chaotic situation” at the Nasser hospital, saying medics had been forced to flee and leave patients behind, with one employee unaccounted for and another detained by Israeli forces.

Roughly 130 hostages are still believed to be in Gaza after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Dozens of the estimated 250 hostages seized during the attack were freed in exchange for Palestinian prisoners during a week-long truce in November. Israel says 30 of those still in Gaza are presumed dead.

At least 28,775 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israel’s assault on Gaza, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory.

Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas militants of using hospitals for military purposes, something Hamas denies.

The UN Human Rights Office said Israel’s raid on the Nasser hospital appeared to be “part of a pattern of attacks by Israeli forces striking essential life-saving civilian infrastructure in Gaza, especially hospitals”.

At a press briefing Friday, World Health Organisation spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said the UN agency was trying to get access to the hospital to bring fuel and assess the situation on the ground.

‘Dying slowly’

Israel’s army on Friday reported the death of another soldier in Gaza, raising the number killed in the ground operation to 234.

It said it had carried out “targeted raids” overnight and killed “12 terrorists” in Khan Yunis.

The Gaza health ministry said Friday that another 112 people had been killed in strikes across the territory.

Nearly 1.5 million displaced Palestinians are trapped in Rafah - more than half of Gaza’s population - seeking shelter in a sprawling makeshift encampment near the Egyptian border with declining supplies.

“They are killing us slowly,” said displaced Palestinian Mohammad Yaghi.

“We are dying slowly due to the scarcity of resources and the lack of medications and treatments in the city of Rafah.”

“Everyone is sick, children and the elderly, and there is no medicine,” said Jihan Al Quqa, who was displaced from Khan Yunis to Rafah.

US President Joe Biden urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late Thursday not to carry out an offensive on Rafah without a plan to keep civilians safe, the White House said.

France, Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand have also urged Israel not to launch a ground offensive in the city.

But Netanyahu has insisted he would push ahead with a “powerful” operation in Rafah to achieve “complete victory” over Hamas.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Egypt was building a walled camp to receive displaced Palestinians, citing Egyptian officials and security analysts.

Israel shooting

In southern Israel, some 25 kilometres north of Gaza, a gunman killed two people at a crowded bus stop on Friday.

Four others were wounded in the shooting near the town of Kiryat Malakhi, according to police.

An AFP photographer at the scene said the gunman had been killed and his body was still at the site of the attack. Police said he had been “neutralised” by a civilian at the scene.

Meanwhile, mediators from the United States, Qatar and Egypt gathered in Cairo this week to try and broker a deal to halt the fighting and see the release of the remaining hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

The head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, David Barnea, held talks with CIA director Bill Burns and Egyptian and Qatari representatives in Cairo on Tuesday, before a Hamas delegation visited Wednesday.

But there has been limited signs of progress.

Netanyahu’s office said it had not received “any new proposal” from Hamas about releasing hostages, and Israeli media reported the country’s delegation would not return to negotiations until Hamas softened its stance.