Israeli military raids Nasser Hospital, the biggest functioning hospital in Gaza


Israeli special forces raided Nasser Hospital in Gaza, the largest functioning hospital in the enclave, after laying siege to the facility for days.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it had detained a number of suspects in Thursday's raid, which it said was led by intelligence gathered in part from released hostages.

Israel said it believed the bodies of dead hostages were being held inside the hospital. Hamas denied the claims, saying the group had "no business" at the hospital.

Israeli forces shelled the hospital early Thursday, killing and injuring an "undetermined number of people," according to Doctors Without Borders, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Since the attack, one of their colleagues remains unaccounted for.

MSF staff were forced to flee the hospital through a checkpoint set up by the Israeli military, the agency said, adding that one employee "was detained" there.

The news came after doctors and medical officials in southern Gaza said Israeli snipers had shot dead a number of people as they tried to flee the Nasser hospital. An eyewitness to the shootings, who is a trauma surgeon at the hospital, said at least two people were killed by snipers on Tuesday, with more shot and injured.

Commenting on Thursday's raid, Israeli Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said, "Hamas terrorists are likely hiding behind injured civilians inside Nasser hospital right now." One former hostage told CNN last month that she was held at Nasser Hospital – a claim CNN could not independently verify, and which Hamas denied.

Israeli military bulldozers dug up the mass graves inside the complex walls, Dr. Al-Qidra, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, said earlier. On Thursday, the forces "stormed the maternity building and conducted a search operation inside," he added.

CNN has asked the IDF for its response to those allegations on Thursday. The IDF has not so far responded to any allegations levied by the Ministry.

Later, Israeli forces forced hospital management staff to house nearly 200 patients, 95 medical workers, 11 of their families, and 165 companions and displaced people "under harsh and terrifying conditions without food, without infant formula, and with severe water shortages," according to Dr. Al-Qidra.

Displaced patients and medical staff 'are afraid'

The raid comes after hundreds of civilians were forced by Israeli forces to leave the hospital, which they had been using as a shelter. Video filmed on Tuesday showed columns of smoke at its perimeter, an Israeli bulldozer destroying a hospital perimeter wall, and an armored vehicle entering the hospital grounds. The sound of gunfire can be heard throughout.

At least eight people trying to escape along the route came under gunfire on Tuesday, the trauma surgeon at the hospital, who asked not to be named for security reasons, told CNN. Among those injured, according to the surgeon, was a 16-year-old boy shot with four bullets at the hospital gate.

In a series of voice notes, the surgeon said medical teams at the hospital have been under intense bombardment for at least three days. His testimony was shared with CNN by his colleague.

Israel has repeatedly said that its military forces do not target civilians.

In a video seen by CNN, men, women and young children carrying rucksacks frantically gather their belongings before evacuating the hospital. The sound of Israeli drones overhead can also be heard. Israeli forces "bombed" a warehouse containing medical supplies, the surgeon said Wednesday.

Early Thursday, after the shelling, the surgeon said he cannot leave Nasser because there are patients "who need care." But he said those trapped are "afraid."

"We could not imagine that at any time the Israeli army would bomb the hospital directly, and they would kill patients and medical personnel," said the surgeon. Alongside his colleagues, he tried "to clarify (with the Israeli army) that we are doctors and this is a hospital facility that provides … health to patients."

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza also said Israeli sniper fire had killed civilians on Tuesday and said a further seven people were shot dead by Israeli snipers on Monday.

Early in the war, the Israeli military designated Khan Younis as a safer zone and told residents from northern Gaza to seek shelter there. But as the IDF pushed its ground offensive south, the city became its next focus.

The IDF says Khan Younis is a Hamas stronghold, and that a tunnel network underneath civilian buildings in the city was likely where Hamas planned the October 7 attacks, in which more than 1,200 people were killed – the deadliest such attacks in Israel's history.

The destruction of the city of Khan Younis due to Israel's military campaign is widespread, with many buildings completely destroyed and the rubble bulldozed away, CNN witnessed.

In the west of the city, where the hospital is located, the Israeli military said it was targeting Hamas outposts, infrastructure, and command and control centers.

Hamas has denied hiding in hospitals and other civilian structures and CNN cannot independently verify either claim.

'Apocalyptic landscape'

Vital medical services at the hospital had collapsed in late January, according to MSF, and staff were left with "very low supplies that are insufficient to handle mass casualty events."

In late January, doctors at the hospital described a "completely catastrophic" with the hospital "entirely besieged" by Israeli forces.

Video filmed on Tuesday at the hospital shows columns of smoke at its perimeter, an Israeli bulldozer destroying a hospital perimeter wall, and an armored vehicle entering the hospital grounds. The sound of gunfire can be heard throughout.

Sewage water is flooding the emergency ward and electrical generators will stop within 72 hours if the Israeli bombardment persists, Dr. Al-Qidra, the spokesman for the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza said on Wednesday.

With so much destruction in northern Gaza and the current offensive unfolding in the southern part of the besieged enclave, MSF said that many people have no safe place to flee.

"People ask us 'Where is it safe? Where should we go?', but there is no answer to that, and it really leads to a feeling of despair," said Lisa Macheiner, a MSF project coordinator in Gaza.

MSF condemned the Israeli military's order to evacuate patients, staff and displaced people from Nasser Hospital, saying "people have been forced into an impossible situation."

"Stay at Nasser hospital against the Israeli military's orders and become a potential target, or exit the compound into an apocalyptic landscape where bombings and evacuation orders are a part of daily life," Macheiner said.

"Hospitals should be considered as safe places and shouldn't even be evacuated in the first place."