More than 600 have been killed at Al-Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza, amid fears the death toll will grow People stand over bodies of Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes on the Ahli Arab hospital in central Gaza on October 17, 2023 © Dawood Nemer / AFP

A Palestinian Red Crescent representative on Tuesday described the destruction of the Baptist Hospital in Gaza City as a war crime and genocide, while a local doctor called it a massacre. Over 600 people have been reported dead, but it is feared the final death toll may exceed a thousand.

“This is genocide. This is a war crime,” Nebal Farsakh of the Red Crescent told Al Jazeera. She explained that in addition to the patients inside, many Palestinian civilians had sought shelter in the hospital compound, after Israel ordered everyone in the north of Gaza to leave.

“Those who were in front of the hospital were forced to leave their homes under the evacuation order. They can’t even afford to evacuate to the south. There’s complete destruction of the infrastructure and transportation,” she said, speaking from Ramallah in the West Bank.

“What’s happened is terrible because those people, all of them, are civilians. They fled their homes and reached a place that they believed was safe – a hospital, which according to international law, is a safe place,” Ziad Shehadah, a doctor in Gaza, told AJ. “People left their homes thinking they were more dangerous and they moved to our schools and hospitals to be safe. And in one minute, all of them have been killed at a hospital.”

According to Shehadah, the final death toll could easily reach more than 1,000.

“It is a massacre,” he added.

WHO condemns Gaza hospital attack WHO condemns Gaza hospital attack

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WHO condemns Gaza hospital attack

Al-Ahli hospital is run by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, an Anglican Christian denomination. Its destruction was denounced by the World Health Organization, Egypt, Qatar and Türkiye, among others.

Israel has denied striking the hospital, however. IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said that “an enemy rocket barrage was carried out towards Israel, which passed through the vicinity of the hospital when it was hit.”

“According to intelligence information, from several sources we have, the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization is responsible for the failed shooting that hit the hospital,” Hagari added. The same claim was echoed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shortly afterwards.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh insisted that such “brutality” by Israel confirmed its “defeat” on October 7, and said the US was ultimately to blame.

“The US holds the responsibility of the hospital attack because of the cover it gives to the Israeli aggression,” Haniyeh said. He also called for Palestinians in the West Bank to rise up against Israel.

Within minutes of Haniyeh’s statement, a riot broke out in Ramallah, as hundreds of Palestinians protested against President Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to meet with US President Joe Biden on Wednesday. Abbas has reportedly canceled those plans since, citing the hospital attack.

In nearby Jordan, dozens of protesters attempted to break into the Israeli embassy in Amman, but were dispersed by police.

Russia and the United Arab Emirates have called for an emergency session of the UN Security Council on Wednesday, to discuss the Gaza hospital attack. (RT)