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The young man, bound by zip-tie cuffs, delivered his Israeli captors’ message but was shot as he tried to walk out of the hospital gate.

IT WAS EARLY in the afternoon on Tuesday when a young man dressed head to toe in white PPE arrived at the entrance of Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, one of two hospitals in the city that was under a prolonged siege by the invading Israeli military. A band was tied around the man’s forehead and his hands were bound in front of his stomach. 

In a video taken shortly after his arrival, his eyes are wide, dazed, and scared all at once. He had something to tell the thousands sheltering at the facility.

“Get out of the hospital, you need to get out of the hospital because they are going to blow it up.”

A crowd gathered around, according to Mohammed El Helou, one of the only remaining Palestinian journalists in the hospital, and the young handcuffed man said that the Israeli military had sent him with a message.

“Get out of the hospital, you need to get out of the hospital because they are going to blow it up.”

Soon after following the same evacuation order he had transmitted, the man would be dead.

WHEN EL HELOU woke up on Tuesday, news had already begun to spread in the Nasser Medical Complex that the Israeli military issued an order to evacuate the facility.

The military had ordered an evacuation of Khan Younis in January as its ground offensive moved further south, but many people, including medical staff and patients, were unable to leave the hospital. The facility has also been a lifeline for displaced Palestinians with an estimated 10,000 people sheltering there.

The initial evacuation order was communicated directly from the military to the hospital administration, according to Khaled Al Serr, a doctor working in Nasser Hospital. The Israelis, he said, had assured staff of “a secure passage through the northern gate of Nasser Hospital for civilians if they want to evacuate the hospital.” Another doctor in the hospital posted on social media about the order to evacuate but said he didn’t feel safe following it without a guarantee from the Red Cross.

The same evacuation order started to arrive again, by other means. “We were also surprised that the bulldozers, there was sound coming from it,” El Helou told The Intercept in a voice message. “I think through the bullhorn that said, ‘Get out, you animals. Get out, animals.’” El Helou caught the insulting order on video.

It was not long after this that the young man in the white PPE arrived. The young man was Jamal Abu Al-Ola, according to El Helou. He had been at the hospital earlier, but the Israeli military had subsequently seized and detained him, and put his hands in what appears to be black, plastic zip-tie cuffs. 

“He said that he was subjected to beatings and humiliation and abuse by the soldiers,” El Helou recounted. 

“He said that he was subjected to beatings and humiliation and abuse by the soldiers.”

After Abu Al-Ola passed along the evacuation order, his mother, who was also sheltering at the hospital, pleaded with him to not go back out, but her son said he had to. “He said, ‘I’ve been threatened, I have to leave the hospital or it’s going to put all the civilians in danger,’” El Helou recalled.

He walked back out the door. In a video filmed by Mohammad Salama, the only other journalist in the hospital aside from El Helou, Abu Al-Ola can be seen walking away with a crowd of people around before they trail away and he walks in his own direction. 

Abu Al-Ola was killed shortly after walking out of the hospital. According to El Helou, he was shot by an Israeli soldier three times in his chest and abdomen while still inside the gates of the hospital. Al Serr, the Nasser Hospital doctor, confirmed the account of Abu Al-Ola being killed as he left the hospital. El Helou later got footage of Abu Al-Ola’s corpse in a body bag, still robed in his PPE. 

“In regards to the incident in question, it is being reviewed,” an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson said in an email received after publication of this story.

“It was such a difficult scene,” El Helou said. “I had just filmed him when he was alive, just earlier.” 

ABU AL-OLA was one of dozens that has been shot right outside the hospital in recent days. According to the Palestinian health ministry, two other civilians were killed on Tuesday in the hospital complex.

On Tuesday morning, Salama, the journalist, posted a video to Instagram showing the dead body of what appeared to be a child or teenager outside the hospital. In the video, the body is still and lifeless as the sound of nearby gunfire rings in the air. According to the Ministry of Health, seven civilians were killed on Monday in the courtyard of the hospital, and another six in the two days prior. 

“We can see from the hospital a lot of bodies, dead bodies of Palestinian refugees who tried to go outside the hospital or trying to get shelter in the refugee camps outside the hospital got shot in the street and left in the street,” said Al Serr. “We can see cats and dogs around these bodies.”

Moving around the hospital has also become increasingly dangerous. On February 8, Al Serr posted a video of a colleague who he said was shot and injured by a sniper while working in the operating room. 

The Israeli military claims that Hamas uses hospitals in Gaza for military operations, but medical staff have repeatedly denied the allegation. Instead, doctors have been consumed with trying to treat patients while both medical supplies and food dwindle. On Sunday, the director of the World Health Organization said that a request to enter Nasser Hospital was denied by the Israelis.

By Wednesday morning, civilians had begun to evacuate Nasser Hospital ahead of what is expected to be an invasion of the complex. Mohammed Ayman, a doctor at the hospital, said on social media that medical staff and patients who cannot walk are still in the hospital with few resources.

A few hours earlier, El Helou had been live on Instagram, wondering what would happen when people leave in search of safety that does not exist in Gaza.

As shelling rang in the background, El Helou pleaded with viewers to share his livestream in case it’s his last one. 

“The bombing is very close,” he said in a quiet voice, closing his eyes occasionally and rubbing his forehead. As he paused, the steady drone of aircraft outside filled the silence between his words. He said, “We expect anything can happen at any time.”


The Intercept, 2024


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