Home International Israeli troops enter Gaza’s Shifa hospital after gunbattle at gates

Israeli troops enter Gaza’s Shifa hospital after gunbattle at gates

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Israeli troops entered Gaza’s biggest hospital on Wednesday and were searching its rooms and basement, witnesses said, culminating a siege that caused global alarm after what Israel said was a deadly clash at the gates.

Smoke rises as displaced Palestinians take shelter at Al Shifa hospital, amid the ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel, in Gaza City, November 8, 2023. File picture: Reuters, Doaa Rouqa

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA – Israeli troops entered Gaza’s biggest hospital on Wednesday and were searching its rooms and basement, witnesses said, culminating a siege that caused global alarm after what Israel said was a deadly clash at the gates.

Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City has become the main target of the ground operation by Israeli forces, who say Hamas fighters have their headquarters in tunnels beneath it, which Hamas denies.

World attention has been focused on the fate of hundreds of patients and thousands of displaced civilians trapped inside. Gaza officials say many patients including three newborn babies have died in recent days as a result of Israel’s encirclement of the facility.

Israel said its troops killed fighters in a clash outside the gates, and had brought medical supplies for those inside.

“Before entering the hospital our forces were confronted by explosive devices and terrorist squads, fighting ensued in which terrorists were killed,” the Israeli military said.

“We can confirm that incubators, baby food and medical supplies brought by IDF tanks from Israel have successfully reached the Shifa hospital. Our medical teams and Arabic speaking soldiers are on the ground to ensure that these supplies reach those in need,” the Israeli military said.

Dr Ahmed El Mohallalati, a surgeon, told Reuters by phone that staff were in hiding as the fighting unfolded outside the hospital overnight.

“So yesterday early evening it started… shooting around the hospital and within the hospital. And the sound was really horrible. Look, you can feel that it’s, you know, it’s very near to the hospital,” he said.

“And then we realised that the tanks are moving around the hospital. One of the big tanks entered within the hospital from the eastern main gate, and they were, they were they just parked in the front of the hospital emergency department.”

“All kinds of weapons were used around the hospital. They targeted the hospital directly. We try to avoid being near the windows,” he said.

Another witness inside the hospital, reached by telephone, said tanks had entered the compound at 3am. The Israeli troops dismounted and spread out in the yard, and began searching the basement and entering buildings.

“It was very dangerous looking from the glass window. The administration of the hospital told us the occupation army informed them they wanted to search us and search room by room. I am very scared,” the man said, asking that his name be withheld for fear of Israeli reprisals.

“There was no shooting because there were no gunmen inside the facility. The soldiers were acting freely as were people inside the hospital, the doctors, the wounded and the displaced,” the man said. He later told Reuters that gunfire could occasionally be heard and he was remaining in hiding.

In a statement, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said: “Based on intelligence information and an operational necessity, IDF forces are carrying out a precise and targeted operation against Hamas in a specified area in the Shifa hospital.”

Israeli army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner told CNN the hospital and compound were for Hamas “a central hub of their operations, perhaps even the beating heart and maybe even a centre of gravity.”

The US said on Tuesday that its own intelligence supported Israel’s conclusions. Hamas said that amounted to giving Israel a “green light” for Israel to raid the hospital, and it held US President Joe Biden fully responsible for the operation along with Israel itself.

– REUTERS

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