Home International Israel besieges two more Gaza hospitals, demands evacuations, Palestinians say

Israel besieges two more Gaza hospitals, demands evacuations, Palestinians say

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Israeli forces besieged two more Gaza hospitals on Sunday, pinning down medical teams under heavy gunfire, the Palestinian Red Crescent said, and Israel said it had captured 480 militants in continued clashes at Gaza’s main Al Shifa hospital.

Palestinians inspect the site of an Israeli strike on a house, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, March 24, 2024. Picture: Reuters, Mohammed Salem

By Nidal Al-Mughrabi

CAIRO – Israeli forces besieged two more Gaza hospitals on Sunday, pinning down medical teams under heavy gunfire, the Palestinian Red Crescent said, and Israel said it had captured 480 militants in continued clashes at Gaza’s main Al Shifa hospital.

Israeli forces say hospitals in the Palestinian enclave where war has been raging for over five months have frequently been used as strongholds of Hamas militants harbouring bases and weapons. Hames and medical staff deny this.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said one of its staff was killed when Israeli tanks suddenly pushed back into areas around Al-Amal and Nasser hospitals in the southern city of Khan Younis, amid heavy bombardment and gunfire.

Israeli armoured forces sealed off Al-Amal Hospital and carried out extensive bulldozing operations in its vicinity, the Red Crescent said in a statement, adding: “All of our teams are in extreme danger at the moment and are completely immobilised.”

It said Israeli forces were now demanding the complete evacuation of staff, patients and displaced people from Al Amal’s premises and were firing smoke bombs into the area to try to force out its occupants.

A displaced Palestinian was killed inside the hospital compound after being hit in the head by Israeli fire, the Red Crescent said in an update later in the day.

The Israeli military said its forces were hitting “infrastructure” in Khan Younis used as lairs for numerous militants. Hamas denies using hospitals for military ends and accuses Israel of war crimes against civilian targets.

The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said dozens of patients and medical staffers had been detained by Israeli forces at Al Shifa in Gaza City in the enclave’s north that has been under Israeli control for a week.

The Hamas-run government media office said Israeli forces had killed five Palestinian doctors during their seven-day-old swoop on Al Shifa.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment on that report. It said earlier that it had killed over 170 gunmen in the raid, which the Palestinian Health Ministry said had also caused the deaths of five patients.

Al Shifa is one of the few healthcare facilities even partially operational in north Gaza, and – like others – had also been housing some of the nearly 2 million civilians – over 80% of Gaza’s population – displaced by the war.

AIR STRIKE KILLS 7 IN RAFAH

Reuters has been unable to access Gaza’s contested hospital areas and verify accounts by either side.

Khan Younis residents said Israeli forces had also advanced and formed a cordon around Nasser Hospital in western Khan Younis under cover of heavy fire from the air and ground.

In Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost town on the Egyptian border town that has become the last refuge for half of Gaza’s uprooted population, an Israeli air strike on a house killed seven people, health officials said.

At least 32,226 Palestinians have been killed, among them 84 in the past 24 hours, and 74,518 injured in Israel’s air and ground offensive into the densely populated coastal territory since October 7, its health ministry said in a Sunday update.

The war was triggered when Hamas-led Islamist militants broke through the border fence into southern Israel in a shock rampage on October 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages back to Gaza, according to Israeli tallies.

Concerted mediation by Qatar and Egypt, backed by the United States has so far failed to secure a Hamas-Israel ceasefire, prisoner releases and unfettered aid to Gaza civilians facing famine, with each sides sticking to core demands.

Hamas wants any truce deal to include an Israeli commitment to end the war and withdraw forces from Gaza. Israel has ruled this out, saying it will keep fighting until Hamas is eradicated as a political and military force.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the backlog of aid destined for Gaza a moral outrage during a visit to the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing on Saturday.

Speaking in Cairo on Sunday, Guterres said the only effective and efficient way to deliver heavy goods to meet Gaza’s humanitarian needs was by road.

The United States and other countries have sought to use air drops and ships to deliver aid, but UN aid officials say deliveries can only be scaled up by land, accusing Israel of impeding relief, which Israel denies.

– REUTERS

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