Relentless bombardment, power outages, and shortages have pushed nearly every hospital in the beleaguered northern Gaza Strip out of service, with evidence of repeated attacks on and in the vicinity of medical facilities despite the presence of doctors, patients, and civilians inside, a CNN analysis led by CNN Investigative Producer Katie Polglase has found.
At least 20 out of 22 hospitals identified by CNN in northern Gaza were damaged or destroyed in the first two months of Israel’s war against Hamas, from October 7 to December 7, according to a review of 45 satellite images and around 400 videos from the ground, as well as interviews with doctors, eyewitnesses, and humanitarian organizations.
Satellite imagery showed craters near 11 of the hospitals were consistent with those left behind by 2,000-pound bombs. The munitions were dropped near enough for the hospitals to be within the lethal fragmentation radius, which is up to 365 meters.
Fourteen were directly hit, based on the evidence collected and verified by CNN and analyzed by experts.
Imagery obtained by CNN showed that two hospitals were completely flattened. Attacks on and around the strip’s three pediatric hospitals forced them to cease services. The only hospitals offering dedicated cancer and psychiatric treatment also stopped operating after having been damaged. By the end of the period reviewed, only four hospitals were partially functioning, according to OCHA, the UN humanitarian agency. None had surgery capacity.
To provide a window into how Gaza’s hospitals became battlegrounds, CNN took an in-depth look at the deterioration of the strip’s biggest and second-biggest medical facilities, Al-Shifa and Al-Quds, up until they ceased operations in November. Al-Shifa has since resumed some services.
Israeli authorities say both hospitals have been used by Hamas for military purposes. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) published images of a tunnel shaft and military equipment it said its forces found inside the Al-Shifa complex and video of what appeared to be an armed man outside Al-Quds Hospital. Hamas and hospital officials have denied that the militant group has operated from inside the facilities.
Taken together, the two hospitals reflect the similarities CNN observed in reviewing evidence from the first two months of the war: that what should be protected facilities are being bombed, encircled, and shot at by tanks, and that surrounding infrastructure, ambulances, and roads are being hit, affecting efforts to treat patients, evacuate facilities and deliver aid.
Several of the hospitals assessed as part of this analysis, including Al-Shifa and Al-Quds, appeared to have been attacked by Israel, according to imagery of munitions fragments, large impact craters, tanks, tank shell holes, and tracks from heavily armored vehicles. Experts who reviewed the imagery for CNN said that the aftermath was consistent with damage from high-grade military weaponry used by the IDF.
CNN sent a list of the hospitals identified as damaged or destroyed to the IDF. In response, the IDF said it “did not conduct any targeted attacks against hospitals in the Gaza Strip,” adding that “Hamas systematically misuses hospitals and medical facilities.”
Tracking how aerial bombardment has impacted hospitals in northern Gaza gives a sense of the scale and scope of devastation that the war has wrought on the enclave’s health system — and the knock-on impact on civilians who have relied on the facilities for shelter and care, and are more in need of their services now than ever before.