IDF denies Episcopal Church claim it ordered evacuation of Gaza City hospital

Church says Al-Ahli medical center was ‘compelled’ to close amid evacuation of area; military insists it told Palestinian health officials there was no need to close hospitals

Screen capture from undated video of the  Al-Ahli Arab Anglican Hospital in Gaza City.  (YouTube. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Screen capture from undated video of the Al-Ahli Arab Anglican Hospital in Gaza City. (YouTube. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday rejected an accusation by Anglican Church authorities that it had ordered the closure of a Gaza City hospital, insisting that it had made it clear there was no need to close hospitals or medical centers in an area where it ordered evacuations due to military operations against terror groups.

The Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East said it was protesting the closure of Al-Ahli Arab Anglican Hospital in Gaza City as a result of the evacuation of several residential districts ordered by the military.

The medical center’s director said patients fled of their own accord while others were moved to alternative hospitals.

A statement issued in the name of the Diocese of Jerusalem said the hospital has been “compelled to close by the Israeli army.”

On Sunday evening, a large amount of drone fire took place in the immediate vicinity of the hospital, it said.

“This was followed by an IDF (Israeli military) announcement that the area had been declared a red zone and that everyone should immediately evacuate all the buildings including everyone in the hospital,” the statement said.

“We protest the closure of our hospital in the strongest possible terms. In a time of warfare and great suffering it is essential that emergency healthcare services are maintained to treat the injured and the dying,” the statement quoted Archbishop Hosam Naoum, Anglican bishop of the Diocese of Jerusalem, as saying.

A soldier operating in the Gaza Strip in an undated photo released for publication by the military on July 9. 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)

Naoum urged Israel to allow the hospital to open and end the alleged targeting of civilians. He appealed to warring parties to reach an immediate ceasefire.

Contacted by Reuters, the IDF said in a statement that it had instructed civilians in specific areas of Gaza City to move out in order to minimize the risk to them but had told Palestinian health officials and the international community that there was no need to evacuate hospitals in the area.

Fadel Naeem, the director of the Al-Ahli Hospital, said patients fled the facility even though there was no evacuation order for the surrounding area. He said those in critical condition had been evacuated to other hospitals in northern Gaza.

Marwan al-Sultan, director of the Indonesian Hospital, said it received 80 patients and wounded people from Al-Ahli who were packed into “every corner.”

“Many cases require urgent surgeries. Many cases suffer from direct shots in the head and require intensive care. Fuel and medical supplies are dwindling,” he said in a text message. He said the hospital also received 16 bodies of people killed in the Israeli incursion, half of them women and children.

On Sunday, the IDF had called on Palestinians to evacuate the Tuffah, Daraj, and Old City neighborhoods of Gaza City and head to shelters on the western side of the town, near the coast. In an updated announcement on Monday, the IDF called on Palestinian civilians in the Sabra, Rimal, Tel al-Hawa, and Daraj neighborhoods to evacuate and head toward the designated “humanitarian zone.”

Al-Ahli is located close to the Tuffah neighborhood.

Palestinians walk near destroyed buildings in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip on July 8, 2024 (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

New evacuation orders to Palestinian families and residents of several eastern Gaza City suburbs had caused a new wave of displacement of thousands of people.

Al-Ahli was the location of a controversial incident early in the war when a rocket apparently fired at Israel by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group fell short and landed in the hospital parking lot. Though Hamas and its PIJ ally tried to blame attribute the explosion to an Israeli strike, Israel produced evidence showing it was a rocket launched from inside Gaza by the PIJ.

In April, the IDF released footage from the interrogation of the spokesman for the political wing of the PIJ in Gaza, in which he admitted that the terror group tried to hide the fact that one of its rockets struck Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, as well as saying that terror operatives use “all hospitals in the Gaza Strip.”

The war erupted on October 7 when Hamas led thousands of terrorists in a devastating cross-border attack on southern Israel that killed 1,200 people and saw 251 taken as hostages to Gaza.

Israel responded with a military offensive to destroy Hamas, topple its Gaza regime, and free the hostages.

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