New Delhi: In a daring and controversial operation, Israeli forces have entered Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, the biggest medical facility in the besieged Palestinian enclave. The hospital is home to thousands of patients, staff and displaced people who have sought refuge from the Israeli bombardment that has killed over 1,200 Palestinians in the past five weeks. Israel claims that Hamas, the millitant group that controls Gaza, has a command centre and tunnels under the hospital and uses it to launch attacks and hold hostages.
The Israeli military said it was conducting a “precise and targeted” raid with medical teams and Arabic speakers, and that it had no intention of harming civilians. However, Hamas and the Gaza health ministry have denounced the raid as a “crime against humanity” and accused Israel of endangering the lives of the hospital’s occupants.
They said Israeli forces had caused explosions and dust in the hospital and had searched the basement, the surgery and emergency departments. They also said the U.S. had given Israel a “green light” to attack the hospital by endorsing its intelligence.
The fate of Al Shifa has become a focus of international concern as the humanitarian situation in Gaza deteriorates amid global calls for a ceasefire. The hospital is a sprawling complex of buildings and courtyards near the fishing port. It provides vital services to the 2 million residents of Gaza, who have been under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007.
‘Thousand Of Civilians Trapped Inside Al Shifa’: Hamas
The situation at Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City is dire, as thousands of civilians and patients are trapped inside the hospital grounds, under constant fire from Israeli forces. Hamas says 650 patients and 5,000 to 7,000 other civilians are stuck in the hospital, which is running out of fuel, water and supplies. It says 40 patients have died in recent days.
The neo-natal ward is especially vulnerable, as 36 babies are left after three died. Without fuel for generators to power incubators, the babies are being kept as warm as possible, lined up eight to a bed.
Palestinians trapped in the hospital dug a mass grave on Tuesday to bury patients who died and no plan was in place to evacuate babies despite Israel announcing an offer to send portable incubators, Qidra, Gaza’s health ministry spokesman, said. Qidra said there were about 100 bodies decomposing inside and no way to get them out.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was deeply disturbed by the “dramatic loss of life” in the hospitals, his spokesman said. “In the name of humanity, the secretary-general calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire,” the spokesman told reporters.
Medical officials in Hamas-run Gaza say more than 11,000 people are confirmed dead from Israeli strikes, around 40% of them children, and countless others were trapped under rubble.