Israeli Strikes Hit Gaza’s Largest Hospital, Prompt Exodus Of Thousands Sheltering There


Thousands of Palestinians sheltering at Shifa hospital — the largest hospital in Gaza — fled early Friday after an Israel strike hit the courtyard and the obstetrics department. Tens of thousands of people were sheltering there, according to Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesperson at the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.

Video shared on social media, and verified by other news outlets, showed chaotic scenes in what appeared to be a covered, outdoor area near Shifa’s outpatient department, where displaced people had been sleeping.

The Israeli army asserts that Hamas hides in and under hospitals and has set up a command center underneath Shifa. Hamas and hospital staff deny this.

Israel launched its offensive in response to Hamas’ October 7 terror attack in southern Israel that killed more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians. Hamas also took about 240 people as hostages. The U.S., U.K., EU and other countries in the West have designated Hamas a terrorist organization.

It is not yet clear how many people have fled from the location. Doctors at the hospital could not immediately be reached for comment because of disruptions to phone and internet connectivity.

The director of Shifa said Israel had demanded the facility be evacuated, but he said these patients had nowhere to go.

“Where are we going to evacuate them?” Shifa Director Mohammed Abu Selmia asked in a televised interview.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said Friday that one person was killed, and 28 others were wounded in gunfire from Israeli forces at the al-Quds hospital in Gaza.

The majority of the injured were children and two are in critical condition due to sniper fire targeting the hospital, according to a Red Crescent statement.

Half of the 2.2 million people in Gaza have been displaced by the fighting in the north. U.N. human rights chief Volker Türk called for an investigation Friday into what he called Israel’s use of “high-impact explosive weapons” in the besieged enclave, which he said was causing indiscriminate destruction in the densely populated Palestinian strip.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that “much more needs to be done to protect civilians and to make sure that humanitarian assistance reaches them,” in the Gaza Strip.

Speaking to reporters in New Delhi as he wrapped up an intense nine-day diplomatic tour of the Middle East and Asia, Blinken said Israel’s recent pauses in military operations to allow Palestinians to move from northern to southern Gaza and the creation of a second safe corridor are positive, though they are not nearly enough.

“Far too many” Palestinians have died and suffered as Israel wages a relentless war against the militant Hamas group in Gaza, he said.

At least 11,078 Palestinians have been killed, including 4,506 children, in Israeli strikes on Gaza since October 7, the health ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza said in a statement Friday.

The ministry said 21 hospitals had gone out of service and 47 health centers were not operational.

Three Palestinian human rights groups said they have asked the International Criminal Court, or ICC, to investigate Israel, accusing it of committing war crimes, including genocide, by bombing and besieging Gaza.

Israel, which is not a member of the Hague-based court and does not recognize its jurisdiction, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“These actions amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, including genocide and incitement to genocide,” said three rights groups — Al Haq, Al Mezan and the Palestine Human Rights Campaign.

Last week, families of Israeli victims of the October 7 attacks also filed papers at the ICC urging the court to investigate Hamas crimes. Hamas gunmen killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and took about 240 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

More than 1,000 officials in the U.S. Agency for International Development have signed an open letter urging the Biden administration to call for an immediate cease-fire in the war, according to a copy of the letter seen by Reuters.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Fox News Thursday that Israel is not interested in conquering, occupying or governing Gaza. The Israeli leader also said he is not interested in a cease-fire.

“A cease-fire with Hamas means surrender,” he said.

Earlier this week, the Israeli leader said that Israel would be in charge of Gaza’s security, without providing details. Netanyahu said a “credible force” should be installed in Gaza to prevent militant threats, like the Hamas attacks in Israel.

Meanwhile, the White House said Thursday Israel would start to implement four-hour daily pauses in its military operation against Hamas in areas of northern Gaza.

The pauses would give Palestinians time to escape using two humanitarian passages and mark significant inroads toward reducing the toll of war, according to National Security Council spokesman John Kirby

“We’ve been told by the Israelis that there will be no military operations in these areas over the duration of the pause, and that this process is starting today,” Kirby said during a call with reporters, adding that the idea of pauses came up in discussions between U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Massive displacement 

As hostilities intensify in northern Gaza, the U.N. says that since Israel first opened a single evacuation corridor on Sunday, at least 80,000 people have evacuated the area — most of them on foot.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said 50,000 people fled south along the main road connecting north and south Gaza on Wednesday during a five-hour Israeli-initiated pause. Humanitarians are providing the evacuees with water and food just south of the line separating north and south.

Conditions have been growing more dire in the north, which has been out of reach of aid deliveries for the past week.

VOA U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.


The VOA is the Voice of America

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