Israel presses Gaza hospital raid

Israel renewed its operation at Gaza’s largest hospital Thursday, targeting what it maintains is a Hamas command centre concealed in a complex sheltering more than 2,000 civilians.

 

Smoke rises during an Israeli military bombardment of the northern Gaza Strip on November 15, 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas.
Gaza hospital raid

“Tonight we conducted a targeted operation into Shifa hospital. We continue to move forward,” Major General Yaron Finkelman, the head of Israeli military operations in Gaza, said in a social media post.

Gaza’s health ministry, which is controlled by Hamas, said Thursday that Israeli bulldozers had “destroyed parts of the southern entrance” of the hospital.

Both Israel and its top ally the United States say Hamas have a command centre below the Al-Shifa complex, which has become a focal point in the 40-day-old war.

The Palestinian fighter group and directors at the hospital have denied the charge.

Before Israeli forces first stormed the hospital complex on Wednesday, UN agencies estimated that 2,300 patients, staff and displaced civilians were sheltering at Al-Shifa.

“The protection of newborns, patients, medical staff and all civilians must override all other concerns,” UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said. “Hospitals are not battlegrounds.”

But Israel’s army claimed the initial raid had uncovered military equipment, weapons and what spokesman Daniel Hagari described as “an operational headquarters with comms equipment.”

A journalist in contact with AFP, trapped inside Al-Shifa, said that Israeli soldiers, some wearing face masks, shot in the air and ordered young men to surrender when they first burst into the facility.

About 1,000 male Palestinians, hands above their heads, were in the courtyard, some of them stripped naked by Israeli soldiers checking them for weapons or explosives, the journalist said.

US President Joe Biden on Thursday said he had told Israel to be “incredibly careful” in the Al-Shifa operation, but insisted Hamas had placed its “headquarters, weapons, materiel” at the hospital.

Witnesses have described conditions inside the hospital as horrific, with medical procedures performed without anaesthetic, families with scant food or water living in corridors, and the stench of decomposing corpses filling the air.

‘Urgent’ pauses
Israel launched its Gaza offensive in retaliation for Hamas’s brutal October 7 attacks, which killed 1,200 people, most of them civilians.

With Hamas-controlled authorities claiming the death toll from the offensive has now topped 11,500, including thousands of children, calls for a truce are mounting.

The UN Security Council on Wednesday set aside deep divisions over the conflict and passed a resolution calling for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses” in fighting.

The resolution — which passed thanks to abstentions from the United States, Britain and Russia — called on Hamas and Israel to protect civilians, “especially children.”

The situation in Gaza’s other hospitals is also dire, with the World Health Organization saying 22 of 36 are not functional due to a lack of generator fuel, damage or combat.

Jordan’s government said an “Israeli bombing” close to its field hospital in north Gaza had injured seven staff.

Amman’s foreign ministry said it would investigate and “take the necessary legal and political steps against this heinous crime”.

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