Israel said its military carried out a “targeted” operation against Hamas early Wednesday inside al-Shifa, Gaza’s largest hospital, after the terror group accused it of using the medical center as a command base.
Conditions at the hospital have deteriorated rapidly in recent days amid intense fighting, with doctors warning of an even more “catastrophic” situation for patients, staff and displaced people.
Here’s what we know so far:
Testing: The Israel Defense Forces said it had launched a “precise and targeted operation” against Hamas in al-Shifa and that fighting was continuing.
Israeli tanks and military vehicles “were in the courtyard of al-Shifa hospital,” Qader al-Zanoun, a reporter for the Palestinian news agency Wafa, told CNN.
A doctor from al-Shifa told CNN they were notified 30 minutes before the Israeli operation began.
“They told us to stay away from windows and balconies. We are asking for armored vehicles, they are very close to the entrance of the compound,” said Dr. Khaled Abu Samra.
Why is Israel doing this? Israel accuses Hamas of using Al-Shifa Hospital as a command and control base.
Hospitals are protected during wartime under international humanitarian law, but Israel said in a statement that Hamas’ “continued military use of the Shifa hospital affects its protected status.”
On Tuesday, the United States cited intelligence that Hamas has a command node under the hospital, which appears to support Israel’s claim.
The Pentagon said the U.S. recently declassified intelligence to show that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad al-Shifa were using the hospitals as a way to “cover and support their military operations and hold hostages.”
CNN cannot independently verify US or Israeli claims.
The IDF says no hostages have yet been found in al-Shifa. One of Israel’s conflict goals is to rescue more than 200 people captured by Hamas.
What Palestinian officials say: Palestinian Health Minister Dr. Mai al-Qaila said the Israeli military attack represented “a new crime against humanity, medical staff and patients” and could have “catastrophic consequences” for patients and medical staff.
Its Ministry of Health is located in Ramallah and is under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and is separate from the Ministry of Health in Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas.
The Hamas statement blamed both Israel and the United States for the Israeli military attack on the hospital. Defending what he called Israel’s “false narrative” that Hamas uses al-Shifa as a command and control base, he said the US had given Israel a “green light… to carry out more massacres against civilians”.
Humanitarian Situation: Doctors and journalists have described appalling conditions inside al-Shifa, including desperate attempts to keep premature babies alive and procedures confined by candlelight.
Journalist Al Za’anoun said people in the hospital “are starving, there is no food or drinking water, we don’t have tap water for an hour a day.”
He said dozens of bodies would be buried in a common grave in the hospital compound’s courtyard as relatives could not go out to bury their loved ones.
“The scene was terrible, the smell of the dead was unbearable, most of the bodies were women and children,” Al Zanoon told CNN.
Thousands of Palestinians are believed to be seeking refuge in and around Al-Shifa trying to escape Israeli air and ground attacks.
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