Palestinian officials say Israeli air strikes hit Gaza hospitals
GAZA – Israeli air strikes hit Gaza’s biggest hospital, the Al Shifa, on Friday, killing one person and wounding others sheltering there, Palestinian officials said, one of several hospitals reported struck as Israeli troops battled Hamas in the heart of the enclave.
Officials said other strikes had damaged parts of the Indonesian Hospital and reportedly set fire to the Rantissi paediatric and cancer hospital in the northern part of Gaza, where Israel says Hamas militants who attacked it last month are concentrated.
Israeli tanks, which have been advancing through northern Gaza for almost two weeks, have taken up positions around the Rantissi, Al-Quds and Nasser Children’s hospitals, raising concern for patients, doctors and evacuees there, medical staff said.
“Israel is now launching a war on Gaza City hospitals,” Mohammad Abu Selmeyah, director of Gaza’s main Shifa hospital, told Reuters.
Israel did not immediately comment but says it does not target civilians and goes to great lengths to avoid hitting them. It says Hamas militants have hidden command centers and tunnels beneath Shifa and other hospitals, allegations which Hamas denies.
“While the world sees neighborhoods with schools, hospitals, scout groups, children’s playgrounds and mosques, Hamas sees an opportunity to exploit,” the Israeli military said.
With Palestinian officials reporting more than 10,000 dead, Israel has faced growing calls for restraint in its month-old war on Hamas but says the militants, whose Oct. 7 attack made all Israelis fear for their lives, would just exploit any pause.
The armed wing of Hamas said on Friday it was still firing rockets and shells into Israel and fighting off troops in Gaza.
Sirens sounded in Tel Aviv and surrounding areas to alert people to Hamas rocket fire. Medics reported two women in Tel Aviv suffered shrapnel wounds from a salvo.
Even before the conflict closed in on them, the enclave’s hospitals were struggling to cope, with medical supplies, clean water and fuel to power generators running out and surgery being done without anesthetics.
Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said Israel had bombed Shifa hospital buildings five times since Thursday night.
“They shelled the maternity department and the outpatient clinics building. One Palestinian was killed and several were wounded in the early morning attack,” he said.
In the wake of the blasts, witnesses said many people were starting to leave the grounds of the facility fearing further strikes.
Israel has warned people to evacuate but Qidra said that was impossible.
“We are talking about 45 babies in incubators, 52 children in intensive care units, hundreds of wounded and patients, and tens of thousands of displaced people,” he said.
Palestinian officials said 10,812 Gaza residents had been killed as of Thursday, about 40% of them children, in air and artillery strikes with many others wounded.
Israel says 1,400 people were killed, mostly civilians, and about 240 were taken hostage by Hamas on Oct. 7, while 39 soldiers have been killed in combat since.
AIR STRIKES AT DAWN
Palestinian media showed video footage of the aftermath of the Shifa strike, with people shouting and crying and several figures covered with blood. Reuters confirmed the location as the covered, outdoor area near the outpatient department.
A World Heath Organization spokesperson said she did not have details of Friday’s incident but quoted colleagues from the hospital as saying it had been coming under bombardment and there was “intense violence” there.
Palestinian Health Minister Mai Alkaila said an adult was killed and a child was wounded at Shifa, one of several medical facilities hit.
“Israel…targeted at dawn a number of hospitals in the Gaza Strip,” her statement said.
The ministry later reported on Telegram that Rantissi hospital was struck by a direct hit and a fire was reported inside the hospital, citing spokesman Qidra. He said earlier that vehicles had been set on fire in the grounds.
WHO also said there was “significant bombardment” on Rantissi hospital, which it has said was only hospital providing pediatric services in north Gaza.
A person who said they were a member of staff of Nasser Children’s Hospital posted an appeal on social media saying they were surrounded.
“We are blockaded inside the hospital by tanks, and we are exposed to heavy fire against us. We don’t have electricity, no oxygen for patients, no fresh water,” it said. The situation here is very difficult and dangerous.”
Indonesia said parts of the Indonesian Hospital in northern Gaza had been damaged in overnight explosions nearby. It did not report any casualties but condemned the blasts without saying who was responsible.
Gaza’s health ministry has said 18 of Gaza’s 35 hospitals and 40 other health centers were out of service either due to damage from shelling or lack of fuel.
ISRAEL SAYS SHIFA HOSPITAL IS LEGITIMATE TARGET
Any Israeli attempt to seize Shifa would risk heavy civilian losses and could trigger an international outcry.
“With ongoing strikes and fighting nearby (Al Shifa), we are gravely concerned about the well-being of thousands of civilians there, many children among them, seeking medical care and shelter,” Human Rights Watch said.
The Israeli military has allowed some wounded Palestinian civilians to cross into Egypt for treatment and has announced daily windows for civilians to flee northern Gaza for the south.
Deadly air strikes on refugee camps, a medical convoy and near hospitals have already prompted arguments among some of Israel’s Western allies over its adherence to international law.
U.N. agencies have issued regular calls for a ceasefire, which both sides have rejected.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said any use of civilians by Palestinian armed groups to shield themselves would contravene the laws of war but that such conduct did not absolve Israel of its obligation to spare civilians.
Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy said the Hamas headquarters was located in the Shifa’s basement, so the hospital would lose its protected status and become a legitimate target.