Israel‘s troops have stormed Gaza’s largest hospital in what the military described as “targeted operation” against Hamas.
The army surrounded the facility early on Wednesday as part of its ground offensive against the group, who they claimed had been hiding military operations in the hospital. Their claims have been backed by intelligence chiefs in the US.
The development comes as Israeli soldiers moved to take control broader control of northern Gaza, including capturing the territory’s law buildings and police headquarters. Al-Shifa Hospital has been at the centre of the latest stage of the conflict, with hundreds of patients, staff and displaced people trapped inside.
The hospital had stopped operations over the weekend as supplies ran low and a lack of electricity left it with no way to run incubators and other lifesaving equipment. Morgue staff dug a mass grave outside the hospital yesterday for 120 bodies after electricity failed.
The Israeli military said on Wednesday that it raided specific areas of the Al-Shifa complex, while trying to avoid harming civilians. Their statement gave no further details. Eyewitnesses reported later in the morning that tanks had been spotted outside the hospital, with around 100 commandoes entering the complex with grenades.
Israel has long alleged that the militants conceal military assets in the facility and other hospitals. In the US, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby yesterday supported the claim, and said both Hamas and fundamentalist group Islamic Jihad “operate a command and control node from Al-Shifa in Gaza City”. He added: “They have stored weapons there and they’re prepared to respond to an Israeli military operation against that facility.”
The claim is denied by Hamas and medical staff at the hospital, and a statement by the militant group described the raid as a “war crime”. The Palestinian Red Crescent said on Tuesday it had evacuated patients, doctors and displaced families from Al-Quds, another hospital in Gaza City. Israeli defence officials also said they will allow fuel shipments into the Gaza Strip for humanitarian operation, an announcement which came hours after the UN aid agency for Palestinian refugees said its fuel reserves in Gaza ran dry on Tuesday.
Fighting between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants in northern Gaza has also caused 200,000 people to flee south in the past 10 days, the UN humanitarian agency said. More than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed since the war began, according to the health ministry in Gaza, who do not count civilian and militant deaths separately. Around 240 Israeli hostages were taken by Hamas in the October 7 attacks, with only four of them known to have been released.