After sustaining five missiles last Saturday, Al-Wafa Hospital in Gaza City received disturbing phone calls last night warning of a new round of bombings. The rehabilitation center, which currently serves 39 patients including 14 requiring urgent care, first received a phone call after the bombings on Saturday from someone with a “thick Israeli accent,” asking if anyone had been hurt. In preparation for an attack of this nature, hospital administrators had already moved all patients from the top floor at the beginning of the Israeli assault, and fortunately did not experience any injuries or deaths.
Last night, however, Al-Wafa received another set of concerning phone calls. International volunteers at the hospital report that someone claiming to be from the “Defense department of the Israeli forces” called at 23:05, telling everyone to evacuate by morning.
Just a few minutes later, at 23:10, the hospital received a recorded message stating that the downtown neighborhood of Shajaia, with a population of approximately 100,000 people, should also evacuate by the following morning.
Then again, at 23:55, another call reiterated the request to leave, saying the hospital would be bombed by 08:00. “Because we don’t want innocent people to get hurt, we care about innocent people, [we] ask you to leave because we are doing a mass operation in your area,” the caller stated.
Hospital administrators sought the intervention of the World Health Organization, which contacted the Israel Defense Forces. The IDF reportedly contradicted their prior message to the hospital when speaking with the WHO. “It is a hospital, so we won’t bomb it,” the IDF reportedly told the WHO.
The IDF’s retraction of the warning, however, comes four days after another rehabilitation center, Al-Shifa in Jabaliya, was bombed, killing four; Al-Wafa was hit with five missiles that same day.
For now, however, hospital personnel and the international volunteers are staying put. “We are not going to evacuate,” stated Basman Alashi, Al-Wafa’s executive director. “We are staying. I believe it is part of their [the Israeli military] propaganda, part of the scare tactics they use.”
Despite numerous phone calls, IDF spokespeople continue to ignore requests for justification for Saturday’s attack, and cannot offer any information about a potential attack in a few hours. “If they received a message to leave, they should leave,” said one spokesperson.