Employees at a Palestinian medical center in Hebron accused the Israeli military of firing a tear gas canister into the hospital Sunday morning, briefly choking some two dozen patients and doctors on noxious fumes, .
The alleged incident at Princess Alia Governmental Hospital came as Israeli troops were dealing with unrest in the divided West Bank city, according to the military.
“Between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m., we were caught off guard by a tear gas canister which suddenly landed in our coronavirus and internal medicine wards,” hospital director Dr. Tariq al-Barbarawi said in a video statement, adding that the gas quickly spread throughout the hospital.
According to Palestinian Authority official news agency WAFA, about 25 patients and doctors required treatment because of the smoke.
Al-Barbarawi said that the patients who had choked were in stable condition. But even hours later, the smell of tear gas still clung to the walls and corridors of the hospital in Hebron, al-Barbarawi said.
The Israel Defense Forces did not deny the reports, saying that they had “no knowledge of what happened inside the hospital.”
A spokesperson for the IDF told The Times of Israel that there was a “public disturbance” close to the hospital and that soldiers had used anti-riot means to disperse the protesters.
الاحتلال يغرق مستشفى الخليل بقنابل الغاز
“People were choking, choking, all across the hospital, especially in the internal medicine and coronavirus wards,” a hospital employee who declined to be quoted by name told The Times of Israel.
“I don’t know who they were pursuing in the hospital, but how could a patient, a sick person, be someone that you attack in this manner?”the employee said.
The IDF declined to comment on why the soldiers were in the area.
Palestinian media reports indicated that the incident may have been connected to an attempt by Israeli forces to detain a previously released Palestinian security prisoner, Hamdun Taha Abu Sneineh. Israeli soldiers searched his home and his carpentry shop, both close to the hospital.
A week ago, Israeli Border Police allegedly used tear gas inside Al-Makassed hospital in East Jerusalem, while attempting to disperse a riot outside the hospital. Some of the suspects fled into the hospital, as Israeli security forces deployed throughout the hospital in pursuit.
Around the same time, the emergency room began filling up with gas. Police claimed it was pepper spray fired by one of the suspects.
“All of us started choking from the gas — medical staff, patients in critical condition, everyone in the emergency room,” an al-Makassed hospital official said at the time. “For at least an hour, we weren’t able to do work or do anything while we waited for the effects to wear off.”
A video shot on the scene at al-Makassed hospital clearly showed a canister on the floor in the middle of a haze of gas. According to Israel Police, the canister was a stun grenade rather than a tear gas canister.