Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday “there’s no reason” why patients at Gaza’s besieged Shifa hospital can’t be safely evacuated but contended that Hamas militants are “doing everything to keep them in harm’s way.”
The Israeli leader told CNN’s “State of the Union” show that 100 patients had been taken out of the hospital and that tens of thousands of Palestinians living in the immediate environs had moved safely out of the area along “safe corridors” heading south out of Gaza City.
But Israeli-Hamas fighting continued near the hospital, Gaza’s largest, and the hospital’s director, Mohammad Abu Salmiya, said the facility was surrounded by the conflict.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” program that the U.S. “does not want to see firefights in hospitals where innocent people, patients receiving medical care, are caught in the crossfire and we’ve had active consultations with the Israeli Defense Forces on this.”
Some treatment of patients at the hospital has been suspended because of its diminished fuel supply, with two babies dying as a result and dozens more patients left at risk.
Netanyahu, without providing details, said Israel “just offered Shifa hospital the fuel,” but that “they refused it.”
Meanwhile, Sullivan told U.S. news talk shows that the U.S. is “actively engaged” with Israeli, Qatari and Egyptian officials to free nearly 240 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, including nine Americans and a foreign national with U.S. employment rights.
Sullivan said President Joe Biden is “not going to rest until we achieve that deal so that every single one of those hostages can come home safely.”
Netanyahu told CNN, “We’re doing everything we can … and many things I can’t say” to free the hostages.”
The Israeli leader continued to reject the U.S. proposal to have the Palestinian Authority run Gaza and the West Bank territory once the war ends.
Netanyahu said control must be “a reconstructed civilian authority” because the Palestinian Authority “is not willing to fight Hamas” and “they teach their children to hate Israel.”
Netanyahu again declined to discuss blame for Israel’s failure to have advance knowledge of the shock October 7 Hamas attack on the Jewish state, which killed about 1,200 people inside Israel.
“There will be enough time [for such a discussion] after the war,” Netanyahu said.
Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, told broadcaster Channel 12 that taking control of hospitals in Gaza would be key to Israel’s goal of rooting out Hamas. But it would require “a lot of tactical creativity” to do so without hurting patients, other civilians and Israeli hostages.
Israeli army officials accuse Hamas of hiding weapons in tunnels under hospitals and setting up a command center beneath Shifa and other hospitals, making the buildings legitimate military targets. Hamas and hospital staff deny this.
The Israel Defense Force denied firing on Shifa Friday and accused Hamas of firing a rocket aimed at Israeli troops that hit the hospital instead.
Elsewhere, the Palestinian Red Crescent said Israeli tanks were 20 meters from al-Quds hospital in Gaza City, causing “a state of extreme panic and fear” among the 14,000 displaced people sheltering there.
Netanyahu reiterated Saturday that the responsibility for civilian deaths and injuries lies with Hamas, and he repeated long-standing charges that the militant group uses civilians in Gaza as human shields.
Israel’s military has said soldiers have encountered hundreds of Hamas fighters in underground facilities, schools, mosques and clinics during fighting in Gaza.
The Palestinian death toll has steadily grown to more than 11,000, about 40% of them children, according to Palestinian officials.
The World Health Organization chief says a child dies every 10 minutes.
“The situation on the ground is impossible to describe,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday. “Hospital corridors crammed with the injured, the sick, the dying; morgues overflowing; surgery without anesthesia; tens of thousands of displaced people sheltering at hospitals; families crammed into overcrowded schools, desperate for food and water.”
“If there is a hell on earth today,” said Jens Laerke, U.N. humanitarian spokesperson, “its name is northern Gaza.”