Gaza City | The Gaza City hospital that suffered a deadly blast Oct. 17 in the Israeli-Hamas war is formerly Southern Baptist, an International Mission Board spokesperson confirmed to Baptist Press.
It is unclear how many Palestinian and other civilians were killed in the blast, with Israel and Hamas blaming one another for the attack.
Southern Baptists operated Al Ahli Arab Hospital from 1954 until 1981 – when it was known as Baptist Hospital – before turning the facility over to Anglicans, Baptist Press reported in June 1993.
Southern Baptists continued to work at the facility at least through 2007, according to news reports, but IMB cited security concerns in opting not to verify whether IMB workers are still deployed to the facility.
“Due to security considerations for our personnel and the national believers with whom we work, we usually don’t discuss their locations,” an IMB spokesperson told Baptist Press. “However, we want to assure you that with any event in international news that could affect someone’s security, leadership is in contact with anyone who might be affected – even due to travel or other reasons – to confirm their safety and security. This is one of those situations.”
More than 3,000 people were either hospitalized or sheltered in and outside the hospital when the blast struck the large medical compound. Many victims remain under rubble, the Palestinian Health Ministry said in a statement, CNN reported.
U.S. President Biden said current intelligence indicates the blast was an errant attack by Palestinian terrorists, not an Israeli offensive in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Biden spent six hours in Israel Oct. 18, meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before returning to the U.S.
The hospital founded in 1882 continues to be referenced as Al Ahli Baptist Hospital in some news reports and is widely known in the region as the Baptist Hospital.
As recently as November 1994, Baptist Press reported that a Southern Baptist surgeon and his wife both worked at the hospital as missionaries from the U.S., and the couple are believed to have served in the area until 2007. As recently as 1992, about 10 Southern Baptists workers were stationed in Gaza, Baptist Press reported in its newsletter accessible in the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives’ digital resources.
Israel has vowed to obliterate Hamas in response to Hamas’ renewed aggression in the long-term hostile relationship between Israel and Palestine. Hamas killed an estimated 1,400 people in its Oct. 7 attack.
About 3,500 people have been killed in Gaza in the 11 days of fighting, Palestinian health officials have reported, with conditions said to be worsening.
– Baptist Press