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Gaza's main Covid-19 lab halts tests after Israel bombing

An orphanage, female high school and Palestinian Ministry of Health offices were also damaged as Israeli missiles rained down on besieged enclave
Gaza's main coronavirus laboratory ceased functioning due to damage from an Israeli airstrike (MEE/Mohammed al-Hajjar)
By Mohammed al-Hajjar in Gaza Strip and Maha Hussaini

Israeli jets bombed a residential building in the middle of Gaza on Monday, causing damage to dozens of adjacent buildings, including Gaza's main coronavirus laboratory, an orphanage, a female high school and the Palestinian Ministry of Health offices.

The six storey Ghazi al-Shwwa building was targeted by at least three missiles, completely destroying the upper floors, eyewitnesses told Middle East Eye.

"If the Ministry of Health is not safe, then there is no safe place in the Gaza Strip. This is a war crime and the world cannot remain silent," Abu Hamed Abufoul, an eyewitness, told MEE.

"I came with my son to withdraw some cash from the ATM, but it was not working due to the [attacks], so we stopped for a moment to think which ATM we should go to instead, and suddenly an F16's missile hit the place," he added.

'No one is safe in the Gaza Strip, no one. We are being targeted in our homes.'

- Gaza resident

"I took my son and rushed to the building of the Ministry of Health, but the strike reached the building and four people, including two workers from the Ministry of Health, were injured."

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Dr. Yousef Abu al-Rish, the undersecretary of the Ministry of Health in Gaza, said telemedicine services provided by the ministry during the coronavirus pandemic were halted after a number of doctors were injured.

"Targeting the Ministry of Health building, al-Rimal Clinic, and the medical staff is a heinous crime aimed at preventing the Ministry from continuing its humanitarian work in saving the lives of the wounded and providing health care to citizens," he said.

"The international community must hold the occupation accountable for its heinous and ongoing crimes against medical personnel and health institutions".

As a result of the attack, the al-Rimal Clinic, which housed Gaza's only coronavirus testing lab, stopped working, Abu al-Rish said late on Monday.

Since Israel launched its military campaign on the besieged enclave on 10 May, two Palestinian doctors, Ayman Abu Al-Ouf, head of the internal medicine at the al-Shifa Hospital, and Moeen al-Aloul, a neurologist, were killed, in addition to dentistry student Shaimaa Abu al-Ouf.

'Terrorising residents'

On Sunday, Israeli jets launched intense air strikes on the same neighbourhood, killing at least 42 Palestinians, including 10 children and 16 women, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.

"This building only houses humanitarian aid organisations and administrative offices, just like the al-Jalaa building that contained media offices and was [destroyed]," Jamal Owedia, a resident of an adjacent building, told MEE.

"We were sitting peacefully, and were shocked by the sound of what felt like an earthquake when the occupation started destroying buildings, all of which are humanitarian buildings and key offices," he continued.

"I am one of those who receive medical treatment at the al-Remal clinic that was damaged. You can also see that just behind it, there is a building where the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross stays, but he left [Gaza] since the beginning of the assault"

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According to local reports, there was no prior warning of the building being targeted. The Remal clinic is one of the most prominent in the area, dealing with a high influx of patients.

"Why did they target a building opposite to the office of the Ministry of Health? What did this building do to [Israel]? This is an empty building, it was only targeted for the sake of terrorising residents," another eyewitness told MEE.

"The ministry’s office plays a very important role during this time, following up on the [cases] of those killed and injured, why would they bomb a building just in front of it?" he continued.

"There is only one [explanation]; it is because the Ministry of Health resists and protects our people during this aggression."

The strike also hit close to the Reuters bureau in Gaza just days after several Israeli strikes flattened the al-Jalaa tower in the middle of Gaza, used by MEE, Al Jazeera, and AP, as well as other international and local media agencies.

"No one is safe in the Gaza Strip. No one. We are being targeted in our homes. Children, women, and elderly are being bombed," the eyewitness said.

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