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Doctors forced to strip in cold at Gaza’s Nasser hospital, witness says, as IDF announces arrest of Hamas militants there

By Kareem Khadder, Alex Stambaugh, Richard Allen Greene and Kareem El Damanhoury, CNN

(CNN) — Israeli troops forced doctors and other medical staff to leave the Nasser Medical Complex in Gaza, strip down to their underwear, and wait in the cold for hours before the troops allowed five doctors to go back into the building to treat patients, an eyewitness told CNN on Monday.

The incident comes as the Israeli military said it had arrested hundreds of militants at the hospital, which is in Khan Younis, including some posing as doctors.

Israeli forces also said they found medications with the names of Israeli hostages on them inside the hospital, releasing a video of soldiers showing medicine boxes with inscriptions and sometimes photos on the labels of who they apparently were prescribed to.

The eyewitness spoke to CNN in a rare telephone interview from the area of Nasser hospital, where there are few ways to communicate with the outside world.

The source said when the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) took control of the hospital last week, they broadcast a message saying: “Doctors, come outside.”

When the medics came out and were ordered to take off their clothes, they protested because of the frigid conditions.

“Take off your clothing,” the witness said the doctors were told.

The doctors then removed their clothes in the cold and were kept outside for several hours before Israeli troops chose five doctors to return to the complex to take care of patients. The eyewitness does not know what happened to the other doctors.

That left five doctors to treat dozens of patients in the old building of the compound, said the eyewitness, who has been inside the hospital and asked not to be named for fear of retribution.

Nasser had been the largest functioning hospital in Gaza prior to the IDF’s raid last week.

The World Health Organization [WHO] said the medical complex, which now has around 180 patients and 15 medical staff, has neither tap water nor electricity and is relying on a backup generator to maintain lifesaving machines.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has also said it faced “major challenges” to deliver fuel to the hospital amid the ongoing military activity in the area.

The eyewitness said the hospital had no electricity and that patients were dying every day due to the Israeli blockade of the hospital.

The source said the air had filled with the smell of rotting bodies. “Four patients died in recent days, and [Israeli] forces haven’t allowed them to remove the patients from the building, and the smell is very bad,” the eyewitness said.

Food and water are scarce, the eyewitness said. When WHO officials arrived on Saturday, “we said: “If you don’t bring food and water, we will die,” the eyewitness added.

The WHO later brought in some water and canned goods like tuna, but there were no carbohydrates, like bread or rice, the eyewitness said. “They [the patients] can’t eat this without bread,” the eyewitness added.

On Sunday, the WHO evacuated 14 patients who needed oxygen. A medical source inside Nasser told CNN 16 more patients were evacuated on Monday.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday the evacuation of patients has continued amid an “acute shortage” of food, oxygen and basic medical supplies.

The Ministry of Health in Gaza said Sunday that around 70 healthcare workers in the medical complex were arrested by Israeli forces and 80 patients had been transferred out of the hospital to an unknown location.

The IDF did not immediately respond to a CNN question about forcing medical staff to remove their clothes in the cold, but the account is similar to reports from other Gaza hospitals which Israeli troops have entered.

CNN has seen at least one instance of Palestinian men stripped of most of their clothes and being held by Israeli troops. Israel has said in the past that it takes away people’s clothing for fear they could conceal improvised explosives. The IDF insists that it treats detainees in accordance with international law.

Hamas militants arrested, IDF says

The IDF said Monday they apprehended “hundreds” of Hamas militants hiding in Nasser Hospital, including some of whom they say had been posing as medical staff, and that they found medicines with the names of Israeli hostages on them during their raid on the medical complex.

“As part of IDF activity in the hospital, boxes of medicine were found with the names of Israeli hostages on them. The packages of medicine that were found were sealed and had not been transferred to the hostages,” the IDF said in its statement Monday.

The IDF claimed that some of the people they apprehended had participated in the October 7 attack on Israel. They included “those with connections to the hostages, as well as significant Hamas operatives.”

The Israeli military did not say where the suspects had been moved, but said they have been transferred “to undergo further investigations by security forces.”

CNN cannot independently confirm the IDF’s claims, but the military released video of a soldier apparently in a hospital pharmacy showing boxes of medicines bearing the names of current and former hostages.

Gaza’s Ministry of Health denied the claims, calling them “not true,” adding, “hospitals provide service to civilians in Gaza.”

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