On the evening of October 17, without warning, a missile landed in the courtyard of Al-Ahli Arab Hospital (commonly known as Al-Mamadani) in the old town of central Gaza.
The resulting massacre claimed 471 lives and left over a thousand wounded (as of numbers reported on October 19).
Most victims had been displaced from their homes in the east of the city; they had evacuated their residences out of fear of Israeli bombardment.
Days before the attack, the Israeli army and its spokespeople issued several warnings to residents in eastern neighbourhoods, both through official channels and direct communication. They implored them to leave the Shuja’iya, Zeitoun, Tuffah, and Daraj neighbourhoods.
Amidst heavy (and ongoing) Israeli bombardment targeting all the areas in the Gaza Strip, residents turned to the hospital as their only option for safe shelter.
Al-Ahli is one of the oldest hospitals in the Gaza Strip, founded over 100 years ago by the Missionary Church Society, an affiliate of the Church of England. From 1954 to 1982, the Southern Baptist denomination oversaw the hospital as a medical mission.
In the 1980s, the hospital returned under the management of the Anglican Church. During the recent Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, which commenced on October 7, the hospital helped provide crucial medical services and first aid to the injured.
Dr Yusuf Abu Al-Rish, the Deputy Minister of Health in Gaza, confirmed that the Israeli army had fired two warning shells in the vicinity a day before the Al-Ahli Hospital massacre.
In a press conference organised by the ministry shortly after the attack, Abu Al-Rish said the hospital's management promptly contacted the Archbishop of the Evangelical Church in Britain, informing him of the warning shells.
Acting swiftly, the archbishop informed relevant international bodies. He also reassured the hospital, urging its administration to persist in its vital work despite challenging circumstances.
Abu Al-Rish added that Dr Ghassan Abu Sitta, the World Health Organisation’s representative in the Gaza Strip, had voiced concerns to Israeli authorities over the fact that there was no prior warning before the hospital’s vicinity was hit with two shells.
Israeli officials responded by stating that such attempts had been made over the phone, but no response was received. Consequently, they resorted to warning shells. Israeli officials further questioned why the hospital had not been evacuated immediately.