Israeli air strikes targeted Gaza’s largest hospital, Al Shifa, resulting in the death of one person and injuries to others seeking shelter there, according to Palestinian officials. This attack is part of a series of strikes on hospitals in Gaza as Israel continues its battle against Hamas in the region. The Indonesian Hospital and the Rantissi cancer hospital were also reportedly damaged in the strikes. Israeli tanks have positioned themselves around several hospitals in northern Gaza, causing concern for patients, doctors, and evacuees. Mohammad Abu Selmeyah, director of Gaza’s main Shifa hospital, accused Israel of waging war on hospitals. Israel, on the other hand, claims that Hamas fighters are exploiting medical facilities, an allegation that Hamas denies.
The Israeli military campaign to eliminate Hamas, which began after the militants’ raid on southern Israel on October 7, has put a strain on Gaza’s hospitals. Medical supplies, clean water, and fuel for generators are running low. As the Palestinian death toll rises, Israel is facing calls for restraint. However, Israel argues that any significant pause in its military campaign would only allow Hamas to take advantage of the situation. According to Palestinian officials, 10,812 Gaza residents, including 40% children, have been killed in air and artillery strikes. Israel claims that 1,400 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the October 7 raid by Hamas, which also resulted in approximately 240 people being taken hostage. Israel has lost 39 soldiers in Gaza.
Al Shifa hospital has been targeted multiple times by Israeli bombings. The maternity department and outpatient clinics building were hit in the early morning attack, resulting in the death of one Palestinian and several injuries. Witnesses reported that people were leaving the hospital grounds out of fear of further strikes. However, due to the large number of patients, including 45 babies in incubators, 52 children in intensive care units, and tens of thousands of displaced people, it is impossible to completely evacuate the hospital.
Video footage of the aftermath of the Al Shifa strike showed people in distress and covered in blood. The World Health Organization confirmed that the hospital had been under bombardment and described the situation as having “intense violence.” Palestinian Health Minister Mai Alkaila stated that an adult was killed and a child was wounded at Al Shifa, one of several medical facilities that were hit. The Indonesian Hospital also experienced explosions, damaging parts of the facility. Indonesia condemned the attacks on civilian objects and humanitarian facilities in Gaza.
Gaza’s health ministry reported that 18 out of 35 hospitals and 40 other health centers are out of service due to shelling or lack of fuel. Human Rights Watch expressed grave concern for the well-being of thousands of civilians, particularly children, seeking medical care and shelter in the vicinity of Al Shifa. Israel’s military advance on central Gaza City, which brought tanks close to the hospital, has raised questions about its adherence to international laws protecting medical centers and displaced people. The Israeli military has allowed some wounded Palestinian civilians to cross into Egypt for treatment and has designated daily windows for civilians to flee northern Gaza.
The deadly air strikes on refugee camps, a medical convoy, and near hospitals have sparked debates among some of Israel’s Western allies regarding its military’s compliance with international law. U.N. agencies have called for a ceasefire, which both sides have rejected. The use of civilians by Palestinian armed groups to shield themselves would violate the laws of war, according to U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Turk. However, this conduct does not absolve Israel of its obligation to spare civilians. The Israeli government argues that Hamas’ presence in the basement of the Shifa Hospital exposes it to lose its protected status and become a legitimate target.
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