The Israeli military raided Gaza’s largest hospital early Wednesday, conducting what it called a “precise and targeted operation against Hamas in a specified area” of the facility, which has been the site of a standoff with the ruling militant group.
Israeli authorities claim the militants conceal military operations in the Shifa Hospital. But with hundreds of patients and medical personnel inside, the military has refrained from entering.
In recent weeks, Israeli defence forces have publicly warned that such use of the hospital “jeopardises its protected status under international law,” the military said. On Tuesday, military officials conveyed again to Gaza authorities that all military activity in the hospital must cease within 12 hours.
“Unfortunately, it did not,” the military said.
Hamas has denied the Israeli accusations that it uses the hospital for cover.
Israeli military officials gave no further details but said they were taking steps to avoid harm to civilians.
The operation unfolded after the military seized broader control of northern Gaza on Tuesday, including capturing the territory’s legislature building and its police headquarters, in gains that carried high symbolic value in the country’s quest to crush Hamas.
Meanwhile, Israeli defence officials said they have agreed to allow some fuel shipments into the Gaza Strip for humanitarian operations. It was the first time that Israel has allowed fuel into the besieged territory since Hamas’ bloody cross-border invasion on October 7.
Palestinians look for survivors after an Israeli strike on a building last night in Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza, on November 14. Photo / AP
Inside some of the captured buildings, soldiers held up the Israeli flag and military flags in celebration. In a nationally televised news conference, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said Hamas had “lost control” of northern Gaza and that Israel made significant gains in Gaza City.
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But asked about the time frame for the war, Gallant said: “We’re talking about long months, not a day or two.”
One Israeli commander in Gaza, identified only as Lt. Col. Gilad, said in a video that his forces near Shifa Hospital had seized government buildings, schools and residential buildings where they found weapons and eliminated fighters.
The army said it had captured the legislature, the Hamas police headquarters and a compound housing Hamas’ military intelligence headquarters. The buildings are powerful symbols, but their strategic value was unclear. Hamas fighters are believed to be positioned in underground bunkers.
For days, the Israeli army has encircled Shifa Hospital. Hundreds of patients, staff and displaced people were trapped inside, with supplies dwindling and no electricity to run incubators and other lifesaving equipment. After days without refrigeration, morgue staff on Tuesday dug a mass grave in the yard for more than 120 bodies, officials said.
Elsewhere, the Palestinian Red Crescent said Tuesday it had evacuated patients, doctors and displaced families from another Gaza City hospital, Al-Quds.
Smoke rises from an explosion in the Gaza Strip as seen from southern Israel, November 14. Photo / AP
Israel has vowed to end Hamas rule in Gaza after the militants’ October 7 attack into Israel in which they killed some 1200 people and took roughly 240 hostages. The Israeli government has acknowledged it doesn’t know what it will do with the territory after Hamas’ defeat.
The Israeli onslaught — one of the most intense bombardments so far this century — has been disastrous for Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians.
More than 11,200 people, two-thirds of them women and minors, have been killed in Gaza, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Ramallah. About 2,700 people have been reported missing. The ministry’s count does not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths.
Almost the entire population of Gaza has squeezed into the southern two-thirds of the tiny territory, where conditions have been deteriorating even as bombardment there continues. About 200,000 fled the north in recent days, the UN said Tuesday, though tens of thousands are believed to remain.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said Tuesday that its fuel storage facility in Gaza was empty and that it would soon end relief operations, including bringing limited supplies of food and medicine in from Egypt for more than 600,000 people sheltering in schools and other facilities in the south.
“Without fuel, the humanitarian operation in Gaza is coming to an end. Many more people will suffer and will likely die,” said Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner-general of UNRWA.
Israeli defence officials, who repeatedly rejected allowing fuel into Gaza, saying Hamas would divert it for military use, changed course early Wednesday. Israel will allow some 24,000 litres of fuel into the Gaza Strip for humanitarian operations, officials said.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the Israeli defence body responsible for Palestinian affairs, said it would allow UN trucks to refill at the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border later Wednesday. It said the decision was in response to a request from the United States.
Palestinians wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip are brought to a hospital in Deir al-Balah on November 14. Photo / AP
Plight of hospitals
Fighting has raged for days around the Shifa Hospital complex at the centre of Gaza City that has now “turned into a cemetery,” its director said in a statement.
The Health Ministry said 40 patients, including three babies, have died since Shifa’s emergency generator ran out of fuel Saturday. Another 36 babies are at risk of dying because there is no power for incubators, according to the ministry.
The Israeli military said it started an effort to transfer incubators to Shifa. But they would be useless without electricity, said Christian Lindmeier, a World Health Organisation spokesman.
The Health Ministry has proposed evacuating the hospital with the supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross and transferring the patients to hospitals in Egypt, but has not received any response, ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said.
While Israel says it is willing to allow staff and patients to evacuate, some Palestinians who have made it out say Israeli forces have fired at evacuees.
This photo released by Dr. Marawan Abu Saada shows prematurely born Palestinian babies in Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Sunday, November 12. Photo / AP
Israel says its claims of a Hamas command centre in and beneath Shifa are based on intelligence, but it has not provided visual evidence to support them. Denying the claims, the Gaza Health Ministry says it has invited international organisations to investigate the facility.
The evacuation at the Al-Quds Hospital followed “more than 10 days of siege, during which medical and humanitarian supplies were prevented from reaching the hospital,” Palestinian Red Crescent officials said.
In a post on X, they blamed the Israeli army for bombarding the hospital and firing at those inside.
The White House’s national security council spokesperson, John Kirby, said the United States has unspecified intelligence that Hamas and another Palestinian militants use Shifa and other hospitals and tunnels underneath them to support military operations and hold hostages.
The intelligence is based on multiple sources, and the United States independently collected the information, a US official said on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.
Kirby said the US doesn’t support airstrikes on hospitals and does not want to see “a firefight in a hospital where innocent people” are trying to get care.
Families and friends of about 240 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza call for their return as they begin a five-day "March for the Hostages" from Tel Aviv to the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem. Photo / AP
March for hostages
Families and supporters of the around 240 people being held hostage by Hamas started a protest march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The plight of the hostages has dominated public discourse since the October 7 attack, with solidarity protests held across the country. The marchers, who expect to reach Jerusalem on Saturday, say the government must do more to bring home their loved-ones.
“Where are you?” Shelly Shem Tov, whose 21-year-old son, Omer, is among the captives, called out to Netanyahu. “We have no strength anymore. We have no strength. Bring back our children and our families home.”
Battle in Gaza City
Independent accounts of the fighting in Gaza City have been nearly impossible to gather, as communications to the north have largely collapsed.
Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari said Israeli forces have completed the takeover of Shati refugee camp, a densely built district bordering Gaza City’s centre, and are moving about freely in the city as a whole.
Videos released by the Israeli military show troops moving through the city, firing into buildings. Bulldozers push down structures as tanks roll through streets surrounded by partially collapsed towers.
The videos portray a battle where troops are rooting out pockets of Hamas fighters and tearing down buildings where they find them, while gradually dismantling the group’s tunnel network.
Israel says it has killed several thousand fighters, including important mid-level commanders, while 46 of its own soldiers have been killed in Gaza.
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