June 19, 2024

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There was intense fighting reported around Gaza’s Indonesian Hospital on Monday.

Israeli tanks surrounded the hospital in northern Gaza after artillery fire killed at least 12 Palestinians in the complex.

Here is what’s to know:

What is happening at Gaza’s Indonesian Hospital?

A shell struck the second floor of the Indonesian Hospital, killing at least 12 people, according to a medical worker inside the facility and the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.

Ashraf al-Qudra, Gaza’s Health Ministry spokesperson, told Al Jazeera that “the situation is catastrophic.”

“The Indonesian Hospital staff are insisting they will stay to treat the wounded. There are about 700 people, including medical staff and injured people, inside the hospital,” he said.

Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry said it had lost contact with three Indonesian volunteers at the hospital who are part of the group that set up the facility in 2016 with the country’s funding.

Marwan Abdallah, a medical worker at the Indonesian Hospital, said that Israeli tanks were operating less than 200 metres (656 feet) from the hospital, and that Israeli snipers could be seen on the roofs of nearby buildings.

Another medical worker told Al Jazeera that the shelling is intense and indiscriminate on the hospital building, at the entrance and at the windows. According to the medic, everyone in the hospital has gathered at the centre of the main building.

Where is the Indonesian Hospital?

Located in Beit Lahiya, a city of about 90,000 people in north Gaza, the hospital sits on some 16,000 square metres (172,200 square feet) of land donated by the government of Gaza in 2011.

The hospital has been sheltering hundreds of displaced people who sought asylum there. It’s also close to the Jabalia refugee camp.

The area around the hospital has been struck multiple times by Israeli forces, with at least two civilians killed in those strikes between October 7 and October 28, according to Human Rights Watch.

The hospital cost almost $8m to build. It was funded by donations from Indonesian citizens in conjunction with groups including the Indonesian Red Cross Society and the Muhammadiyah Society, one of Indonesia’s largest Muslim organisations.

Interactive_Indonesian_Hospital_Nov20
(Al Jazeera)

What has Israel said?

Israel has long accused Hamas of using hospitals and other civilian sites to establish command posts and hide weapons.

The army has previously said that it believes the Indonesian Hospital was built on a Hamas tunnel system, in allegations that mirror those that Israel has made against al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Al-Shifa, the Gaza Strip’s main hospital, has been in the spotlight for weeks after coming under Israeli bombardment.

Why is Israel targeting Palestinian hospitals?

Six weeks into its war on Gaza, Israel’s attacks on hospitals have emerged almost as a motif of the conflict. At least 21 of Gaza’s 35 hospitals – including the Strip’s solo cancer centre – are completely out of service, and others have been damaged and are short of medicines and essential supplies.

Commentator Taghreed El-Khodary said that Israel “convinced” the world that al-Shifa Hospital was the headquarters of Hamas because it was the easiest route for them to invade Gaza.

“They know it is the safest part to go and impose a kind of military headquarters for them in Gaza City. They couldn’t come from the east. Now this is what they’re doing, going to the Indonesian Hospital in Beit Lahiya to also impose another headquarters for them to attack and kill more civilians,” El-Khodary told Al Jazeera.

According to Omar Rahman, a fellow at the Doha-based Middle East Council on Global Affairs, this is a form of psychological warfare.

“Attacking hospitals tells the population that nowhere for [Palestinians] is safe,” Rahman told Al Jazeera, adding that Israel acts with “total impunity”.

Tahani Mustafa, a senior Palestine analyst at the International Crisis Group, said the act of making Palestinians feel unsafe in every facility in the Gaza Strip is to quell any form of resistance.

“This is part of a long-standing pattern of harassment of medical staff and services, in which Israel demonstrates to Palestinians that no one and no space is safe,” Mustafa told Al Jazeera.

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