Israel destroys el-Wafa hospital as staff evacuates all patients

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El-Wafa Hospital

The Israeli military has destroyed el-Wafa rehabilitation hospital in the Gaza Strip, after first targeting the facility with five missiles on July 11, 2014. The Israeli military began striking the building around 8:oo pm this evening and within two hours all hospital staff and patients had evacuated the only rehabilitation center in the Gaza Strip. As they departed what remained intact from the medical center burned to the ground.

“It’s already destroyed,” said Basman Alashi, director of el-Wafa, continuing, “I don’t know how much is left of it, but we have evacuated all of our patients. We lost power, there was a fire in the building.”

Alashi spoke to me via telephone from his house in Gaza, unable to cross the Israeli shelling to reach the hospital. “I left the hospital at seven and within two hours they had bombed the hospital.” Shells hit every floor of the building, and a fire spread throughout.

Terrified patients in the corridors of the hospital to avoid attacks. (Photo: @ Valeria Cortes)
Terrified patients in the corridors of the hospital to avoid attacks. (Photo: @ Valeria Cortes)

After the Israeli army began striking the hospital, Alashi and el-Wafa’s 25 nurses made desperate arrangements to relocate the last 17 patients. Many of those in el-Wafa’s care are paralyzed and are connected to oxygen support. Some of the nurses left the building to seek help, braving Israeli fire on the streets in order to track down an ambulance with an oxygen tank.

“My nurses were unable to stand on their feet because of the smoke and the heat,” said Alashi. El-Wafa’s staff managed to evacuate all of the patients to a nearby medical clinic inside of a hotel. “The ones who could stay, stayed, but the ones who lost consciousness and lost control, we moved,” he continued.

Only after the facility was under heavy fire and in the process of being abandoned did Alashi receive a phone call from the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) relaying a message from the Israeli army. A women who identified herself as a delegate of the ICRC said, “the Israelis asked ‘how much time do you need to evacuate,’” said Alashi, answering “two hours.” However, within an hour when the woman called back and said the Israeli army “will halt the bombings, and not bomb the hospital any more,” the facility was already in rubble. Alashi responded, “Are you joking, are you making a mockery of me? I told her it’s too late they have already destroyed it.”

“I said that the Red Cross is cooperating with the Israelis to destroy the hospital,” Alashi continued, recounting his earlier conversation with the representative from the ICRC. “I’m going to take you, the Red Cross and the Israelis to the International Criminal Court,” he announced before hanging up the telephone.

el Wafa Hospital, struck by missile
el Wafa Hospital, struck by missile on July 11

When I spoke to Alashi his voice was dry and sunken compared to when we talked a few days ago after the facility was first hit by Israeli fire on July 11. Five missiles had knocked the hospital taking out exterior walls and causing significant damage to the fourth floor. After the assault, patients who could be cared for at home were discharged and the remaining were relocated to the first floor.

Alashi had to rush to get off of the telephone with me; he was on his way to finally check on his patients now in the safer Sahaba clinic. He concluded that Israel’s destruction of the hospital would only hurt their military goals. A devastated Alashi said:

‘The Israelis and the Red Cross have destroyed the only rehab clinic in the West Bank and Gaza. They are not solving the issues; they are creating more suicide bombers. You cannot solve issues like this at all. They are the ones creating suicide bombings, not us.’

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