December 1, 2023

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Israeli tanks outside Gaza hospital, Biden hopes for ‘less intrusive’ action

Israeli tanks outside Gaza hospital, Biden hopes for ‘less intrusive’ action
  • The latest developments:
  • The military wing of Hamas proposes the release of 70 hostages in exchange for a truce for 5 days
  • The Israeli military released a video and photos of what it said were weapons stored by Hamas in the basement of a hospital
  • White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Washington “would like to see much longer pauses — days, not hours — in the context of hostage releases.”

GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli tanks advanced on Monday to the gates of the main hospital in Gaza City, a key target in Israel’s battle against the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), at a time when US President Joe Biden said hospitals must be protected and expressed… He expressed his hope that Israel would be less intrusive. an act.

Separately, Hamas’ military wing said it was willing to release up to 70 women and children detained in Gaza in exchange for a five-day truce in the war that broke out after Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel.

Gaza Ministry of Health spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudra, who was inside Al-Shifa Hospital, said that 32 patients died in the past three days, including three newborn babies, as a result of the siege of the hospital in northern Gaza and the power outage.

At least 650 patients were still inside, in a desperate attempt to be evacuated to another medical facility. Israel says the hospital is located above tunnels that house a headquarters for Hamas fighters who use patients as shields, something Hamas denies.

“Tanks are in front of the hospital. We are under complete siege. It is a completely civilian area. Only… hospital patients, doctors and other civilians are staying in the hospital. Someone has to stop this,” said a surgeon at the hospital. Dr. Ahmed Al-Makhalati said over the phone. “We’re barely alive.”

In his first comments since the weekend’s events, including the reported patient deaths at Shifa Hospital, Biden said hospitals must be protected.

“I hope and expect that there will be less intrusive measures regarding hospitals, and we will remain in contact with the Israelis,” Biden told reporters at the White House.

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He added, “There are also efforts to obtain this deadline to deal with the release of prisoners, and this is also being negotiated with the Qataris… We are involved.” “So I’m still somewhat optimistic but the hospitals must be protected.”

Israel launched its campaign last month to eliminate Hamas, the Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip and is officially dedicated to Israel’s destruction, after Hamas militants overran southern Israel and killed civilians.

About 1,200 people were killed in that attack and 240 others were dragged into Gaza as hostages, according to the Israeli count.

Since then, thousands of Gazans have been killed and two-thirds of the population has been made homeless due to the Israeli military campaign. Israel ordered the evacuation of the northern half of the Gaza Strip.

Medical authorities in Gaza say that more than 11,000 people have been confirmed dead, about 40% of whom are children.

Israel says Hamas hospitals operate as military facilities, and the Israeli military on Monday released videos and photos of what it said were weapons stored by the movement in the basement of Rantisi Hospital, a children’s hospital that specializes in cancer treatment.

Hostages to a ceasefire?

The Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas movement, published an audio recording on its channel on the Telegram application in which it said that the movement was ready to release some of the hostages it had held in exchange for a five-day ceasefire, an offer that Israel is unlikely to accept.

He added, “The enemy requested the release of 100 women and children from its captives in Gaza, but we told the mediators that during a five-day truce we could release 50 of them, and the number may reach 70, given the difficulty of the prisoners’ suffering.” “Different factions are being detained,” said Abu Ubaida, spokesman for the Qassam Brigades, referring to an Israeli request.

The spokesman said that last week, Qatari mediators sought to release some women and children hostage in exchange for Israel releasing 200 Palestinian children and 75 women it is holding.

He added, “The truce must include a complete ceasefire and allow the provision of aid and humanitarian relief everywhere in the Gaza Strip.”

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that Washington “would like to see much longer pauses — days, not hours — in the context of hostage releases.”

Another US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the release of dozens of hostages could lead to a pause for several days, saying that the negotiations were very sensitive.

Israel, which effectively blockads Gaza, rejected a ceasefire, arguing that Hamas would simply use it to regroup, but allowed a brief humanitarian “truce” that allowed food and other supplies to flow and foreigners to flee.

Fighting also occurred on Monday at the main Al-Quds Second Hospital in northern Gaza, which was no longer operational. The Palestinian Red Crescent said that the hospital was surrounded by heavy gunfire, and the convoy sent to evacuate patients and employees was unable to reach it.

Israel said it killed “about 21 terrorists” in Jerusalem in response to the shooting after fighters opened fire from the hospital entrance. It published footage that it said showed a group of men at the hospital gate, and one of them appeared to be carrying a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

In a sign of Israeli progress in Gaza, the country’s Channel 12 television broadcast a photo of soldiers carrying Israeli flags in the parliament hall in Gaza. Israel Katz, a minister in Israel’s security cabinet, said on the X social media site that the photo showed that “the symbol of Hamas’ rule in Gaza” was in the hands of Israeli soldiers.

The Israeli military and security services said they killed a number of Hamas leaders and officials on the last day, including Muhammad Khamis Dababish, whom they described as the former head of the movement’s military intelligence.

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Hamas media said that more than 30 people were killed and dozens injured in an Israeli air strike on the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. An Israeli army spokesman said that the army was examining the report on Jabalia.

In Israel, sirens sounded in the center of the country and in the city of Tel Aviv on Monday evening, as the armed wing of the Hamas movement said on its account on the Telegram application that it had fired a group of rockets at Tel Aviv.

There have also been new fears that the war could extend beyond Gaza, with clashes escalating on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, and the United States launching air strikes on Iranian-linked militia targets in neighboring Syria.

A hospital in the heart of battles

At Al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Al-Qudra said that Israeli snipers and drones were firing at the hospital, making it impossible for medics and patients to move around.

Israel asked civilians to leave, and asked doctors to send patients to other places. She says she tried to evacuate babies from the neonatal ward and left 300 liters of fuel to run emergency generators at the hospital entrance, but Hamas banned the performances.

Al-Qudra said that Al-Shifa Hospital needs between 8,000 to 10,000 liters (2,100 to 2,600 gallons) of fuel per day, provided by the Red Cross or an international agency.

(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Dan Williams in Jerusalem and the Reuters offices – Preparing by Muhammad for the Arabic Bulletin) Writing by Peter Graff, Toby Chopra and Arshad Muhammad; Edited by Nick Macfie, Christina Fincher and Howard Goller

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A senior correspondent with nearly 25 years of experience covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including several wars and the signing of the first historic peace agreement between the two sides.