As It Happens·Q&A

'God help us,' says Gaza doctor as wounded Palestinians flee one hospital for the next

As fighting centres around the Indonesian Hospital in northern Gaza, medics are trying to move patients out of the line of fire to Nasser Hospital in the south. But a doctor there says he fears the facility will soon become a target.

Nasser Hospital takes on patients from other facilities in the line of fire amid dwindling staff and supplies

A man carries an injured teenage boy through a crowd. The boy is holding a blanket over his leg and making a pained expression.
Injured Palestinians evacuated from the Indonesian hospital in the north of the Gaza Strip receive care at Nasser Hospital in the Palestinian territory's southern city of Khan Younis on Monday. (AFP/Getty Images)

WARNING: This story contains graphic images of wounded people, including children.

As the Indonesian Hospital in northern Gaza becomes another war zone, medics are moving patients out of the line of fire to Nasser Hospital in the south. But a doctor there says he fears the facility may soon become a target itself. 

At least 12 people were killed Monday at the Indonesian Hospital, according to a medical worker there and the Hamas-run Gazan health ministry. Both blamed Israel, saying its forces shelled the facility's second floor. Israel denied this, saying its troops returned fire on militants who targeted them from inside.

This comes less than a week after Israeli forces raided Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital, claiming it houses a Hamas command centre, something the militant group denies. 

Israel says Hamas uses civilians and hospitals as shields. The United Nations and human rights organizations say Israel's siege and bombardment of the Gaza Strip amounts to collective punishment of the territory's 2.3 million Palestinians after Hamas' deadly Oct. 7 attacks southern Israel.

Tareq Al-Daghma is a pediatric ICU doctor at the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, in southern Gaza, which has received about 200 patients from the Indonesian Hospital over the last two days, but they have neither the staff nor the supplies to care for them.

Here is part of his conversation with As It Happens host Nil Köksal. 

You've been receiving many of the patients that were at the Indonesian hospital.... Tell us about those patients. What kinds of injuries are you treating?

We receive, hour by hour, patients, and we are out of beds.

Our ICU was intended for pediatrics … not traumatology or surgical or multiple casualties. But we were obliged to do this work since we have no other options. We need the multidisciplinary team to overlook these patients, because these patients come with severe injuries, severe burns, fractures, all sorts of injuries. 

We are short of doctors, as well, and nurses and supplies, and it's getting really bad.

We don't have clean water. We don't have enough food for our staff, who are exhausted. And sometimes we work continuously for more than 24 hours without rest.

We are facing very difficult situations in which we sometimes put a DNR [order] — this is meaning "do not resuscitate" — [on] patients with serious and severe injuries that we think ... won't survive.

A little boy lies in a hospital bed with bandages on his arms and head.
Approximately 200 patients from the Indonesian Hospital were transferred to Khan Younis in southern Gaza. One doctor at Nasser Hospital says the facility has run out of beds and ventilators. (Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images)

How do you make those decisions, doctor?

Before this war, there had to be a commission of multiple consultants to establish a DNR [protocol].

But nowadays we really look after the cases that we think there is hope for them.

Yesterday we [had] two brain-dead patients … and they may have [had] a really thin percentage of surviving. But we had to let them go.

It's very difficult for me as a human being, as a doctor, to do this. But we have no other choice. 

There are reports of a strike, potentially an Israeli strike, on a residential apartment building in Khan Younis.... And you're saying you've received just more than 20 people [from its aftermath]. 

We have no fuel for the cars. People were bringing them on foot — it's about two kilometres away — or sometimes on a cart, or carried by donkeys and animals and horses. 

The ambulances brought many children who already were dead. We looked for patients that ... can be saved, really, but they came in very critical condition. We did some resuscitation for them in the emergency room and, unfortunately, we could not save any of these children. 

They were found on the streets. Imagine that. The bombing of their apartments ... they flew from the windows, and they found them on the streets. 

I don't really have any vacant beds in the ICU.

Where are you putting the patients then?

Sometimes we put them in a regular room. We are out of ventilators. We are out of staff, especially nurses. There are many, many patients who are lying in the corridors ... critical patients. 

A man in blue scrubs carries a badly injured child, her eyes swollen shut and face covered in cuts.
A man carries a badly injured child to Nasser Hospital. A doctor there says some of the children who were brought to the hospital were already dead on arrival. (AFP/Getty Images)

We've also heard of doctors losing their lives. Have you lost any colleagues or friends?

In the beginning of the war, there was a doctor friend of mine. I don't know why they bombed his apartment. He died along [with] his whole family, around eight of them. He was called Aziz Al-Farra. He's a pharmacist. He was a really good friend and nice person, very charismatic personality. 

The only surviving member of his family was a child called Hamza. I was still in grief and pain [from] hearing the news, and I was shocked again [when] they told me that in the emergency room, there is one child who's still alive, his eldest son, around 11 years old. 

He had a brain hemorrhage. He has a fractured hip. He had abdominal penetrating wounds. We were fighting [for] him ... for around seven days, and then he ultimately died.

I told his cousin, the only surviving member of his family: Maybe it's God's wish, maybe it's the best thing that he would not live with this trauma and pain 

WATCH | Premature babies moved from Al-Shifa Hospital:

28 premature babies evacuated from Gaza to Egypt

3 months ago
Duration 3:49
As another hospital has become a site of fighting in Gaza, 28 babies have been evacuated to Egypt to receive urgent care. Many patients are trapped in the hospital as the fighting takes place around them.

We're hearing that there might be some release of hostages by Hamas, that they might let some people go, and there might be some sort of pause [in the fighting]. When you hear that, does that make you hopeful? 

Everybody here is not really hopeful about this ceasefire. Because … everybody's saying that they now think the IDF, the Israeli army, that they will come to the south of Gaza, and maybe our hospital will be the next target.

In the Indonesian Hospital, I have a colleague who died, a doctor, a physician, because they bombarded the hospital.

Nobody's hopeful that this war is going to stop here. Everybody's trying to flee out of the country.

They made Gaza unbearable and unable to be a habitable city. They demolished everything. We have no no electricity, no clean water, no food.

A man covered in dust lies on a stretcher and points.
Palestinians injured in Israeli raids arrive at Nasser Hospital on Tuesday. The facility, which already received hundreds of patients from another hospital at the centre of the fighting, says its running out of room, food, water, staff and equipment. (Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images)

Why did you stay?

Because I'm the head of pediatric department and I'm supervising [the] ICU. I have an Egyptian nationality. I could have left a long time ago as a foreign nationality. 

I live … east of Khan Younis, but from Day 1, we were told to evacuate. I don't know, maybe my house is demolished by now.

I had to go to the downtown city of Khan Younis to my wife's family place, and just after two days, we were bombarded. And, thankfully, me and my daughter — my only daughter, my only family member that I have here — we were lucky to be alive.

She's 18 years old. We are living now in the hospital. We have no other choice.

And the rest of your family?

My wife was living before the war in Egypt. And I have another son studying in Egypt. So we are trying to survive.

I hope you convey our message. We need your prayers. We need your help. We need everybody to know that the Israeli army is not targeting Hamas. They are making genocidal massacres.

We don't see anyone taking action against this, any Arab countries as well. Which is astonishing and surprising, really. Nobody in the world cares for us. I don't know. Maybe they don't consider us as humans, or I don't know. 

We are not all like Hamas. We are other humans. God help us. 

With files from The Associated Press. Interview with Dr. Tareq Al-Daghma produced by Chris Harbord

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