The Israeli military conducted a raid on Wednesday targeting Hamas militants who had taken refuge in Al Shifa Hospital while urging them to surrender. This operation took place with thousands of Palestinian civilians still seeking shelter inside the Gaza Strip’s largest hospital.
Dr. Munir al-Bursh, director-general of the Gaza health ministry, informed Al Jazeera television that Israeli forces conducted a raid on the western side of the medical complex.
“Big explosions and dust are entering the areas where we are. We believe an explosion occurred inside the hospital,” Bursh said.
Hours later, Gaza health ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra told Al Jazeera: “The occupation army is now in the basement, and searching the basement. They are inside the complex, shooting and carrying out bombings”.
Israeli forces initiated their operation by raiding the surgery and emergency departments at Al Shifa Hospital, as reported by Mohammed Zaqout, the Gaza health ministry’s director of hospitals, in an interview with Al Jazeera.
However, it’s important to note that media outlets such as Reuters have not confirmed the situation at Al Shifa.
The fate of Al Shifa has raised international concerns due to deteriorating conditions within the facility, where thousands of patients, medical staff, and displaced individuals have been trapped during the Israeli assault on Gaza over the past five weeks. Israel alleges that Hamas maintains a command centre beneath Al Shifa and uses the hospital and tunnels underneath it for concealing military operations and holding hostages, while Hamas denies these claims.
Israel has vowed to eliminate Hamas in response to the militants’ cross-border attack into Israel on October 7th. Israel claims that Hamas is responsible for the deaths of 1,200 people during the attack and the taking of more than 240 hostages.
In the West Bank, which is a separate Palestinian territory not controlled by Hamas, Palestinian Authority Health Minister Mai Alkaila has accused Israel of committing a new crime against humanity by besieging Al Shifa Hospital. She holds the Israeli occupation forces fully responsible for the well-being of medical staff, patients, and displaced individuals at Al Shifa.
Al Shifa is a large complex near Gaza City’s fishing port. The western side of the complex, where the raid reportedly occurred, houses internal medicine and dialysis departments.
Hamas reports that approximately 650 patients and 5,000 to 7,000 civilians are trapped inside the hospital grounds, facing constant fire from Israeli snipers and drones. Due to shortages of fuel, water, and supplies, 40 patients have died in recent days. 36 babies are remaining in the neo-natal ward, and without fuel for generators, efforts are being made to keep them warm.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed deep concern about the significant loss of life in hospitals and has called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. Medical officials in Gaza, which Hamas controls, report that more than 11,000 people have been confirmed dead from Israeli strikes, with around 40% of them being children. The conflict has left approximately two-thirds of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents homeless and struggling to access essential resources.