Israel forces search Gaza hospital as civilians stranded inside
By Mai Yaghi and Adel Zaanoun
PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES – Israeli forces were searching building to building at Gaza’s main hospital Thursday (16) as Hamas said the military had “destroyed” parts of the compound where concern has mounted for the Palestinians trapped inside who may number in their thousands.
Soldiers raided the Al-Shifa hospital a day ago in the hunt for a command centre they say the militants built below the complex, a charge denied by Hamas and managers of the hospital that has become a focal point of the war.
The Israeli military said it found rifles, ammunition and explosives at the Gaza City complex, as well as computers and equipment containing “information and footage pertaining to the hostages” taken in Hamas’s shock October 7 attack on Israel.
“The soldiers are proceeding one building at a time, searching each floor, all while hundreds of patients and medical staff remain in the complex,” an Israeli army official said.
Ashraf Al-Qudra, spokesman for the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, told AFP Israeli troops “destroyed the radiology service, and bombed the burns and dialysis departments”.
“Thousands of women, children, sick and wounded are in danger of death,” he said.
Before Israel first sent troops into the hospital complex on Wednesday (15), UN agencies estimated that 2,300 patients, staff and displaced civilians were sheltering at Al-Shifa without enough food, water and fuel for generators.
Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas in retaliation for the attacks of October 7, which killed 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and saw about 240 people taken hostage, according to Israeli officials.
The Israeli military says 51 of its troops have been killed in Gaza since fighting began.
But with the Hamas government media office saying the death toll from the offensive has now topped 11,500, including thousands of children, calls for a truce are mounting.
Gaza’s 36 hospitals have been caught up in the war, with more than half rendered non-functioning by shortages, combat or damage, the UN has said.
The Red Crescent said a “violent attack” was underway on Gaza’s Al-Ahli hospital, which was hit by a deadly strike on October 17.
Hamas blamed the blast on Israel, while Israel said a misfired Islamic Jihad group rocket was responsible, a position supported by US and some other Western security officials.
“Israeli military tanks besiege Al-Ahli Baptist hospital in Gaza, and violent attack is underway. (Red Crescent) teams are unable to move and reach those who are injured,” the group said on social media.
– ‘Meaningless’ UN resolution –
The UN Security Council on Wednesday set aside deep divisions over the conflict to agree a resolution calling for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses” in fighting.
The resolution — which passed with abstentions from the United States, Britain and Russia — called on Hamas and Israel to protect civilians, “especially children”.
Israel has agreed to temporary localized pauses in fighting but has rejected calls for a broader ceasefire.
“The @UN Security Council’s resolution is disconnected from reality and is meaningless,” Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, wrote on X.
The Israeli foreign ministry called on the Security Council and the international community to “stand firm on the prompt release” of all those kidnapped.
“Extended humanitarian pauses are untenable as long as 239 abductees remain in the hands of Hamas terrorists,” it said.
– Attack victim ‘believed in peace’ –
Israel has concentrated its heavy bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza City, announcing this week the seizure of the parliament building, government offices, Hamas police headquarters and a key port.
Israel’s army claimed an initial raid in Al-Shifa had uncovered military equipment, weapons and what spokesman Daniel Hagari described as “an operational headquarters with comms equipment”.
A video narrated by another Israeli army spokesman showed rifles and ammunition magazines inside an area he identified as Al-Shifa’s MRI scanner building.
“This was hidden very conveniently, secretly behind the MRI machine, said the spokesman, Jonathan Conricus.
The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza argued Wednesday the Israeli military did not find any weapons when it raided the hospital.
The death and suffering in the densely populated coastal territory has prompted growing concern for Gaza’s civilians, who have fled south to try to escape the heaviest combat.
Gaza City’s Al-Quds Hospital was evacuated during fighting in the area, forcing patients to make their way south to other facilities.
“We were in pain along the road… I feel pain in the knee,” said Ahmad Abou-Sabra, wounded evacuee.
“The situation was bad, and the distance. We stayed in the army (checkpoint) for more than two hours,” he told AFP at a Red Crescent hospital in Khan Yunis.
More than a month after the Hamas attack, mourners gathered for the funeral of 74-year-old Israeli-Canadian peace activist Vivian Silver whose killing was confirmed this week.
“Vivian was a woman who believed in peace. She was a woman who, in moments of despair, would bring us back the hope,” peace activist Ghadir Hani said. “She believed that, both in Gaza and around Gaza, we all deserve to live in peace.”
– Call for war probe –
UN human rights chief Volker Turk pointed to what he called serious allegations of international law violations in the Israel-Hamas war and suggested an international investigation was needed.
“Where national authorities prove unwilling or unable to carry out such investigations, and where there are contested narratives on particularly significant incidents, international investigation is called for,” he said.
Turk also warned against a “potentially explosive situation” in the occupied West Bank, where violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians has surged since the start of the war in Gaza.
Three gunmen on Thursday attacked a checkpoint on a road leading into Jerusalem from the occupied West Bank, wounding five members of the Israeli security forces and killing one.
Israeli soldier Avraham Fetena, 20, died of his injuries, the army said. The three assailants were shot dead by police.
Hamas’s armed wing claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a post on Telegram that it was “in revenge for the blood of the martyrs in Gaza”.
– Agence France-Presse