Heavy fighting erupted at the Indonesian Hospital in northern Gaza where thousands of patients and displaced people have been sheltering for weeks.A shell struck the second floor of the hospital, killing at least 12 people, said the Gaza health ministry.
The plight of Gaza’s hospitals is at the focus of a battle of narratives over the war’s brutal toll on Palestinian civilians, thousands of whom have been killed or buried in rubble since the conflict was sparked by Hamas’ October 7 rampage into southern Israel.
Marwan Abdallah, the medical worker at the Indonesian Hospital, said Israeli tanks were operating less than 200 metres from the hospital, and that Israeli snipers could be seen on the roofs of nearby buildings. As he spoke over the phone, the sound of gunfire could be heard in the background, reported AP.
Health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said some 600 patients, 200 healthcare workers and 2,000 displaced people are sheltering in the hospital.
Tunnel, command hub under Al-Shifa hospital: Israel
Israel has maintained that Hamas uses civilians as human shields and has evidence supporting its claims that Hamas maintained a sprawling command post inside and under Al-Shifa hospital’s 20-acre complex, which includes several buildings.
Watch: IDF launches dramatic raid on Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital to ‘wipe out Hamas’
Israeli forces battled Palestinian militants outside its gates for days before entering the facility on November 15.
Days after the operation, Israeli military released a video showing what it said was a tunnel discovered at the hospital, 55 metres long and about 10 metres below ground. It said the tunnel included a hole for gunmen to fire out of, and ended at a blast-proof door that troops have not yet opened.
Leader of Hamas in Gaza and Israel’s top target for assassination Yahya Sinwar is assumed to be hiding deep in such a Gaza tunnel, “like a little Hitler in a bunker,” as prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu put it recently.
Footage released by the IDF showed the newly uncovered tunnel in between buildings within the hospital grounds.
The military also released images of several guns it said were found inside an MRI lab and added that bodies of two hostages were found near the complex.
The IDF also released an image showing weapons discovered by troops inside Gaza’s Al-Quds Hospital. Another set of images published by the IDF showed the inside of a Hamas tunnel inside Rantisi Hospital.
Israel’s claims have, however, not been independently verified.
Hamas and hospital authorities have categorically refuted all Israeli allegations of medical infrastructure being used for military activities.
Al-Shifa doctor backs Israel claim
According to a report by the Times of Israel, a British doctor who used to work at Al-Shifa hospital, has confirmed there were areas of the hospital where he could not go, or else he would be shot.
“When I was first asked to work there [at Shifa], I was told there was a part of the hospital I was not to go near, and if I did, I’d be in danger of being shot,” he was quoted as saying. “Was it explained to you why that was?” asked journalist Irris Makler in the recorded conversation.
“No, but implicit was that it was being used for non-medical purposes,” replied the doctor.
Israel accused of collective punishment
Critics say Israel’s siege and relentless aerial bombardment of Gaza’s health infrastructure amount to collective punishment of the territory’s 2.3 million Palestinians.
Israel has repeatedly ordered Palestinians to leave northern Gaza and seek refuge in the south, which has also been under aerial bombardment since the start of the war. Some 1.7 million people, nearly three quarters of Gaza’s population, have been displaced, with 900,000 packing into crowded UN-run shelters.
More than 13,o00 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, according to Palestinian health authorities.
Criticism of Israel’s military operation further increased after a missile struck a UN school sheltering displaced people. Over 80 people were killed.
Videos on social media showed bodies covered in blood and dust on the floor of a building where mattresses had been wedged under school tables, in Jabalia, the Palestinian territory’s biggest refugee camp.
(With inputs from agencies)