(CTN NEWS) – A massive explosion at the heart of Gaza’s Al-Ahli Arab Hospital has left at least 500 Palestinians dead, sending shockwaves of anger and grief throughout the global community.
Many of the victims had sought shelter from nearly two weeks of relentless Israeli airstrikes in the besieged enclave, making this incident a focal point for international outrage and condemnation.
Accusations and Denials
In the wake of the catastrophic explosion, Palestinian officials have vehemently accused Israel of bombing the hospital, while Tel Aviv, in return, has shifted the blame onto Gaza-based armed groups.
This harrowing incident has cast a dark shadow over US President Joe Biden’s diplomatic mission to the Middle East, further intensifying the already heightened tensions in the region. Notably, Palestinian armed groups have strongly denied any involvement in the attack.
The Location of Al-Ahli Arab Hospital
The Al-Ahli Arab Hospital is situated in Gaza’s Old City, nestled between the Shujaiya and Zeitoun neighborhoods in Gaza City. This location places it less than 3 kilometers from Al-Shifa Hospital, which is the largest public hospital in Gaza, serving the enclave’s 2.3 million residents.
The hospital is also in close proximity to several historical sites in Gaza, including the Great Omari Mosque, known as Gaza’s Great Mosque, and two churches, St. Philip the Evangelist Chapel and St. Porphyrius Church.
The Great Mosque stands a mere 300 meters from the hospital and holds the distinction of being both the largest and oldest mosque in the Gaza Strip.
The area is also home to Gaza’s historic Zawiyam Market.
Al-Ahli Arab Hospital has a rich history, founded in 1882, and plays a crucial role in the healthcare of Gaza’s residents, providing care to over 45,000 patients annually.
The Time of the Strike
The exact time of the strike remains unclear. According to the Israeli military, they received reports of an explosion at the hospital around 6:59 pm local time (3:59 GMT).
The devastating impact of the attack, which also targeted the adjacent church, has prompted strong condemnations from the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem, which operates the hospital.
In the immediate aftermath of the blast, the Gaza civil defense chief initially reported 300 fatalities, while health ministry sources later raised the figure to 500.
Victims Transported to Al-Shifa Hospital
Following the explosion at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, a large number of injured individuals were rushed to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, where medical staff worked tirelessly to provide care to the wounded.
Heart-wrenching scenes, captured by Al Jazeera, showed medics and civilians recovering bodies, using white bags or blankets to cover the deceased. The hospital’s courtyard bore the scars of the tragedy, with visible bloodstains and charred cars.
Key Facts about Al-Ahli Arab Hospital
Al-Ahli Arab Hospital is not only one of the oldest hospitals in Gaza, founded in 1882, but it also holds the distinction of being the only Christian hospital in the region, according to the Jerusalem diocese’s website.
This medical institution, like many others in northern Gaza, has been struggling to respond to the recent crisis, as Israel has targeted residential infrastructure, resulting in a devastating toll of over 3,300 Palestinians killed and more than 13,000 wounded.
Apart from providing critical healthcare, the hospital runs a breast cancer detection program and offers a free community clinic with transportation from outlying neighborhoods.
Additionally, it operates a clinic for underweight and malnourished children, as well as physical and occupational therapy services.
Notably, recent reports from The Wall Street Journal highlight the hospital’s new cancer ward, funded mainly by the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem in Texas.
The hospital is currently under the leadership of Suhaila Tarazi.
Attacks on Healthcare Facilities in October
The tragedy at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital is not an isolated incident. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there have been over 115 attacks on healthcare in Palestine since the onset of the conflict on October 7.
At least 20 hospitals in Gaza City and North Gaza, along with one hospital in Rafah, have received repeated evacuation orders from the Israeli military.
These attacks have resulted in 77 documented incidents of violence against healthcare teams in the West Bank, further exacerbating the dire situation.
Tlaleng Mofokeng, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, has decried the irreparable damage done to Gaza’s medical infrastructure, emphasizing the critical need for timely and quality healthcare services in the region.
As the world watches in shock, the tragic events at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital serve as a stark reminder of the urgency of finding a peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East and protecting the sanctity of medical facilities and their patients.
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