Israel said its army launched a “targeted” operation against Hamas early Wednesday morning inside Gaza’s largest hospital, where thousands of Palestinians are believed to be taking shelter.
Conditions changed at Al-Shifa Hospital, which ran out of fuel and was no longer considered operational It deteriorated quickly In recent days amid heavy fighting, doctors warned of a “catastrophic” situation for patients, staff and displaced people still inside. Wednesday’s raid sparked international criticism.
In a statement posted online, the IDF said The IDF said that it had begun “a precise and directed operation against Hamas in a specific area in Al-Shifa Hospital.”
Khader Al-Zaanoun, a correspondent for the Palestinian news agency WAFA, described the scenes of violent fighting to CNN.
He said in a text message, “Explosions shook the buildings of Al-Shifa Hospital… which was besieged from all four sides, following the firing of rockets and artillery shells in the vicinity of the hospital.”
Al-Za’noun said that the occupation forces “stormed the hospital with large numbers of soldiers and military vehicles, including tanks, armored vehicles, personnel carriers, and bulldozers,” adding that they were preventing anyone from leaving.
A senior Israeli defense official, who spoke to reporters earlier on Wednesday, said that Israeli soldiers were in the buildings “conducting searches and interrogations with the youth amid heavy and violent gunfire inside the hospital.” He added that the Israeli army “calls on the young men via loudspeakers to raise their hands, come out and surrender themselves.”
The Hamas government media office has since claimed that Al-Shifa Hospital is under the control of Israeli forces. She said in a statement: “We hold the Israeli occupation fully responsible for the lives and safety of medical staff, the wounded, the sick, premature children, and the displaced.”
However, IDF spokesman Daniel Haggard later said, in his daily briefing on Wednesday, that the military operation at the hospital “is still ongoing and will take some time.”
“It is a complex area, and there are still a lot of people. We need to do it at the right pace.”
Israeli Radio said in a report earlier today that the army has not yet found any indication of the presence of hostages inside the hospital.
But in a press conference given roughly 12 hours after the raid, a senior Israeli defense official said soldiers had discovered weapons in the hospital, and the Israeli military later issued a statement saying it had found a Hamas “operational command center” in one of the hospitals. Hospital departments.
Hamas rejected this claim, describing it as a “blatant lie and cheap propaganda.”
CNN is trying to contact the hospital to speak with doctors there, but phone calls are not being made.
Israel is under significant international pressure to substantiate its claims about Hamas infiltrating the hospital, in order to justify some of its military decisions, which may constitute a potentially serious violation of international humanitarian law.
There is no indication yet that the forces have uncovered a multi-level tunnel structure with underground chambers of the type shown in the animation provided by the army spokesman at a press conference nearly three weeks ago.
Israel accuses Hamas of using the large hospital complex for military purposes, which it claimed in a statement on Wednesday “endangers the hospital’s protected status under international law.”
Hamas and hospital officials have consistently rejected Israel’s claims that Hamas built a command center under the hospital.
Hours before the raid, the White House and Pentagon said Hamas was storing weapons and operating a command center from the hospital.
The Pentagon said the United States recently declassified intelligence it claims shows that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are using hospitals — including Al-Shifa Hospital — “as a means to conceal and support their military operations and hostage-taking.”
However, John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council, later said that Washington had not signed off on the specific operation around Shifa Hospital nor approved any of the Israeli military plans. Kirby said this was “not the focus” of US President Joe Biden’s phone call on Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
He reiterated that the United States believes that Israel should not target hospitals in Gaza from the air, and that civilians must be protected from the exchange of fire.
Human rights bodies strongly condemned the Israeli raid on Al-Shifa Hospital, while the World Health Organization and Palestinian health officials warned of losing contact with staff inside the hospital.
International pressure on the Israeli government has increased in recent days amid accounts of difficult conditions in other Gaza hospitals suffering from fuel shortages, and severe food and water shortages.
On Wednesday, the UN Security Council approved a resolution calling for a “humanitarian truce and corridors” in Gaza, in what amounts to a long-awaited diplomatic breakthrough after weeks of bitter negotiations. Twelve countries voted to approve the measure, with the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia abstaining from voting.
UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said he was “shocked by reports of military raids on Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza.”
“The protection of newborns, patients, medical staff and all civilians must take precedence over all other concerns. Hospitals are not battlefields,” Griffiths said on Platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Minister of Health in Ramallah, Mai Alkaila, said that the Israeli army’s “storming” of the Shifa complex is a “crime against humanity.” The Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs described it as a “violation of international humanitarian law.” Qatar described it as a “war crime and a flagrant violation of international laws.”
The Israeli military said in a statement on Wednesday that it had warned weeks ago that “Hamas’ continued military use of Al-Shifa Hospital jeopardizes its protected status.”
She added that she had also notified the relevant authorities on Tuesday that all military activities inside the hospital must stop within 12 hours.
but A doctor inside Al-Shifa told CNN they received a warning just 30 minutes before the Israeli operation began.
“We were asked to stay away from windows and balconies. We can hear the armored vehicles, they are very close to the entrance to the complex,” Dr. Khaled Abu Samra said.
The Director General of Gaza Hospitals, Zaqout, said that newborns in Al-Shifa Hospital are in grave danger as conditions deteriorate further.
Zaqout said: “With regard to evacuating the hospital… we have said many times that there is no place to transfer 40 incubators outside the hospital.”
CNN was unable to independently confirm his assessment of the situation. But CNN earlier reported on photos published by Al-Shifa that showed newborn babies being removed from failed incubators and wrapped in aluminum foil in a desperate attempt to keep them alive after their oxygen supply ran out.
Hundreds of staff and patients remain inside Al-Shifa Hospital, according to the latest reports from the hospital, along with several thousand seeking shelter from the Israeli air and ground attack.
The Israeli statement said: “The Israeli army is conducting a ground operation in Gaza to defeat Hamas and rescue our hostages. “Israel is at war with Hamas, not with civilians in Gaza.”
A statement issued by Hamas blamed Israel and the United States for the Israeli army raid on the hospital. By supporting what she called Israel’s “false narrative” — that Hamas is using Shifa as a base for command and control — she said the United States gave Israel “the green light… to commit more massacres against civilians.”
Israel declared war on Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza, and imposed a “total blockade” of the Strip following Hamas’ terrorist attacks on Israel on October 7. An estimated 1,200 people were killed in Hamas attacks, and about 240 others were captured. Hostages, most of whom are still being held in Gaza.
Since then, the Israeli response has killed at least 11,255 Palestinians — including 4,630 children — according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah, which relies on medical sources in Gaza.
“The screaming of the elderly and the screaming of children”
People inside Al-Shifa Hospital have lost contact with other buildings in the complex, jeopardizing efforts by humanitarian workers and Palestinian officials to obtain updated information about the disastrous conditions faced by terrified patients and medical staff.
Omar Zaqout, supervisor of the emergency department, said that people are taking shelter inside buildings and staying away from windows and doors.
Zaqout added: “We do not know what is happening outside. All we hear are explosions, gunfire, the screams of elderly people, and the screams of children.”
He said that Israeli soldiers were present in the buildings surrounding the emergency room, and that he had previously seen people handcuffed, stripped of their clothes, and blindfolded. CNN is not on the ground and cannot independently verify his account. CNN also reached out to the Israeli military for comment on these allegations, but has not yet received a response.
Zaqout, General Director of Hospitals in Gaza, claimed that the Israeli army interrogated medical staff, patients and their companions.
“Some of the escorts were forced to take off their clothes,” said Zaqout, who was not in the hospital but spoke to doctors inside.
Israeli army spokesman Admiral Daniel Hagari claimed that Israeli forces “include medical teams and Arabic speakers, who have undergone specific training to prepare for this complex and sensitive environment with the aim of not causing any harm to civilians.” CNN cannot verify Hagari’s claims.
For his part, Zaqout confirmed that all those inside the hospital were civilians. “The situation right now is terrible.”
Earlier this week, doctors and journalists described desperate efforts to keep premature babies alive and limited procedures performed by candlelight, as food, milk and water ran out.
Hospital director Muhammad Abu Salamiya told Al Jazeera that there are plans to bury more than 150 bodies, but he expressed concern that the grave would not be large enough. Al-Zaanoun, WAFA’s correspondent, told CNN, “The smell of the dead is unbearable, and most of the bodies are women and children.”
In recent days, 15 patients at Al-Shifa Hospital, including six newborns, died due to power outages and lack of medical supplies, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah, which draws its numbers from Hamas-controlled territory.
Egyptian Health Minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar said on Tuesday that they are working to bring 36 newborns from Al-Shifa to Egypt, although such a transfer would be dangerous.
Recorded by the World Health Organization At least 137 attacks On health facilities in Gaza, which it said led to the death of 521 people and the injury of 686 others.
Other protected sites, such as schools, civilian shelters and UN facilities, have already been damaged or destroyed during more than a month of Israeli air strikes. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) announced on Monday that more than 100 UN staff have been killed in Gaza since the fighting began – the highest death toll in UN history.
This is a developing story and is being updated.
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