Page last updated at 08:59 GMT, Thursday, 17 April 2008 09:59 UK

Gaza hospital hit in crossfire

Gaza map

Wednesday was the deadliest day in Gaza for more than a month. More than 20 people were killed, including five children in an Israeli air strike and, earlier in the day, three Israeli soldiers in an apparent Hamas ambush near the Nahal Oz border terminal, east of Gaza City.

Gaza's El Wafa hospital, which is about 7km from the terminal and 1km from the Israeli border, received several direct hits in the crossfire, the hospital's medical director, Dr Khamis Elessi, told the BBC.

I heard overnight that El Wafa hospital had been hit, but we had to wait until the Israelis had pulled back before we could go in, at about 6am.

Dr Khamis Elessi
Dr Elessi says his patients and staff were terrified

The first thing we saw was the flooding. One of the shells had landed on the roof where the water tank is, and it had started leaking onto the patients' floor.

Then we saw the patients, they were in complete shock.

El Wafa is Gaza's only rehabilitation centre; most of the 52 patients who stay overnight have spinal cord injuries - they cannot move.

They were scared to death. The hospital was in complete darkness at the time of the attacks. The generators' cables had been hit, so there was no electricity.

The battle went on for hours - can you imagine?

Our oldest patient is in his 50s - and he is the most courageous.

He told me he threw himself onto the ground and started dragging other patients out of the room on their bed sheets to corridors which were more protected.

A metal frame around one of the beds had been shattered by bullets - the patient was in the bed at the time.

The hospital was hit by four Israeli shells and by many bullets.

A person from the Red Cross came to look at the damage. The type of bullets are the long ones from Israeli tanks, not the smaller ones from Palestinian militant weapons.

I am 100% certain the shrapnel is Israeli - the number of shells fired so closely together. Militant rockets aren't that accurate.

This was the second time that our hospital has been hit. The first time, in February 2002, they killed two of our nurses.

Thank God there were no injuries this time - apart from the shock and psychological trauma.

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