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Bombed Gaza hospital formerly led by Southern Baptists

President Joe Biden participates in a restricted bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Hotel Kempinski in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023. (Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith)

GAZA CITY, Gaza (BP) – The Gaza City hospital that suffered a deadly blast Oct. 17 in the Israel-Hamas war is formerly Southern Baptist, a Baptist representative 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 information was unavailable as to whether Baptist workers are still employed the facility.

“Due to security considerations for our personnel and the national believers with whom we work, we usually don’t discuss their locations,” a Baptist representative said. “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 the mid 90’s, Baptist Press reported that a Southern Baptist and his wife both worked at the hospital, and the couple are believed to have served in the area until the late 2000’s. In the early 90’s, there were approximately 10 Southern Baptist representatives working in Gaza.

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.