Israeli military storms Gaza's besieged Nasser Hospital 'to retrieve bodies of hostages'

Israeli forces have confirmed they are operating inside the besieged Nasser Hospital in southern Gaza.

They stormed the major hospital on Thursday morning, hours after the IDF ordered thousands to leave the site.

Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, the chief military spokesperson, said forces were conducting a "precise and limited" operation there and would not forcibly evacuate medics or patients. He said soldiers are seeking the remains of hostages taken by Hamas.

The IDF said it had "credible intelligence" that Hamas had held hostages at the hospital and that the remains of hostages might still be inside.

Israel has long accused Hamas of using hospitals and other civilian structures to shield its fighters.

The raid came a day after the army sought to evacuate thousands of displaced people who had taken shelter at the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis - the southern city has been the main target of Israel's offensive against Hamas in recent weeks.

Gaza's Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra said Israel had launched a "massive incursion" with heavy shooting that wounded many of the displaced people who had sheltered there.

He said the military had ordered medics to move all patients into an older building that was not properly equipped for their treatment."Many cannot evacuate, such as those with lower limb amputations, severe burns, or the elderly," he said in an interview with the Al Jazeera network.

Nasser Hospital has been the latest focus of operations that have gutted Gaza's health sector as it struggles to treat scores of patients wounded in daily bombardments.Dr. Khaled Alserr, one of the remaining surgeons at Nasser Hospital, said that the seven patients hit early Thursday were already being treated for past wounds.

He also claims that, on Wednesday, a doctor was lightly wounded when a drone opened fire on the upper stories of the hospital."The situation is escalating every hour and every minute," he said.The Israeli military said Wednesday that it had opened a secure corridor for displaced people to leave the hospital but would allow doctors and patients to remain there.

Videos circulating online showed scores of people walking out of the facility on foot carrying their belongings on their shoulders.The military had ordered the evacuation of Nasser Hospital and surrounding areas last month.

Palestinian patients arrive in Rafah after they were evacuated from Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis (REUTERS)
Palestinian patients arrive in Rafah after they were evacuated from Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis (REUTERS)

But as with other health facilities, medics said patients were unable to safely leave or be relocated, and thousands of people displaced by fighting elsewhere remained there.

Palestinians say nowhere is safe in the besieged territory, as Israel continues to carry out strikes in all parts of it."People have been forced into an impossible situation," said Lisa Macheiner of the aid group Doctors Without Borders, which has staff in the hospital."Stay at Nasser Hospital against the Israeli military's orders and become a potential target, or exit the compound into an apocalyptic landscape where bombings and evacuation orders are a part of daily life."

Separately, Israeli airstrikes killed at least 13 people in southern Lebanon on Wednesday, 10 civilians — mostly women and children — and three fighters from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, an ally of Gaza's Hamas militants.

The strikes came just hours after a rocket attack from Lebanon killed an Israeli soldier in what was the deadliest of daily exchanges of fire along the border since the October 7 start of the war in Gaza. It also underscored the risks of a broader conflict.

Negotiations over a ceasefire in Gaza appear to have stalled, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue the offensive until Hamas is destroyed and scores of hostages taken during the group’s attack that sparked the war are returned.