Israeli forces surround Khan Younis, besiege remaining hospitals

Israeli forces surround Khan Younis, besiege remaining hospitals
The city's current population, many of whom were displaced from other areas, are facing the prospect of fleeing once again amid increasingly dire conditions.
3 min read
23 January, 2024
Residents and displaced people residing in Khan Younis have been forced to flee to Rafah and Deir al-Balah as Israel surrounds Khan Younis [Photo by Ashraf Amra/Anadolu via Getty Images]

Gaza's southern city of Khan Younis was besieged by the Israeli military on Tuesday, in a bid to capture the city that has been putting up stiff resistance against Israel since early December.

The push is led by Israel's 98th Division and has seen the encirclement of the city's Al-Amal Hospital, Nasser Medical Complex and the Al-Khair Hospital, with tanks operating near hospital grounds.

The city's current population, many of whom were displaced from other areas, are facing the prospect of fleeing once again amid increasingly dire conditions imposed by Israel.

The New Arab's Gaza Correspondent Sally Ibrahim described the situation as dire, with Palestinian fighters engaged in heavy clashes with the Israeli army, which is besieging and bombing the city.

Israels' military announced this morning that 24 soldiers had been killed assault on the south. This includes 21 soldiers who were killed when Palestinian fighters fired RPGs at a tank and a building that the army were rigging with explosives.

Ibrahim said that displaced people were heading to the southern city of Rafah bordering Egypt or Dier al-Balah in the middle of the enclave. For some, it has been their tenth time displaced.

"We really live in a terrible situation. Day by day, Israel is closing in on Rafah city, where 1.5 million people reside, and their situation is terrible as they suffer from a lack of basic needs.

"We can hear explosions that result from Israeli attacks on Khan Younis city, and we can see clouds of black smoke that come from [the area]."

Doctors Without Borders (MSF), whose medics had been working in the Nasser Hospital, have announced that the organisation has been forced to leave.

A MSF spokesperson told The New Arab that on Tuesday morning Israeli forces expelled the residents of block 107 in Khan Younis, which includes Nasser Hospital. The hospital is one of two remaining hospitals able to receive and treat critically injured patients.

"Patients and medical staff are trapped inside, surrounded by military forces. We cannot bring them medicines or support as humanitarian access is denied by Israeli forces," the spokesperson said.

"Israeli forces gave people until 5:30pm today to evacuate the area but people have been too afraid to move outside to leave."

In the Palestine Red Crescent Society's (PRCS) Al-Amal hospital, PRCS reported that Israeli drones had been shooting people moving around the hospital.

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PRCS also announced that the fourth floor of its headquarters located in Khan Younis city was struck by Israeli artillery, wounding displaced people who had been sheltering there.

Tamara Alrifai, the Director at the Department of External Relations and Communications at UNRWA, told The New Arab that "we are very worried about the developments in Khan Younis, especially as the ongoing fighting is so close to civilian facilities, including UNRWA's largest shelter in the south (Khan Younis Training Center)".

She said that six displaced people were killed and many more wounded in the facility, which houses 30,000 people who have fled their homes since the start of the conflict.

"We call on all parties to take every precaution to minimize harm and protect civilians and civilian objects, especially in densely populated areas, and to protect hospitals, clinics, medical personnel and UN premises in accordance with international law," Alrifai said.

Since 7 October, 25,490 Palestinians have been killed by Israel in Gaza, with a further 62,681 wounded according to Gaza's health ministry.

UNRWA has warned that 570,000 people in Gaza now face catastrophic hunger, with another 1.7 million displaced, and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called Israel's killing of civilians in Gaza "unacceptable".