* Israel Defense Forces attacked Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza on Wednesday (15/11) to hunt down Hamas militants.
* The Palestinian Authority’s Health Minister said Israel’s attack on Shifa constituted a “new crime against humanity.”
* National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that Hamas and members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad operate a command and control center from the hospital and use tunnels beneath it to support their military operations and take hostages.
* UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday that he was “deeply disturbed by the dire situation and dramatic loss of life in several hospitals in Gaza.”
* US President Joe Biden said he was confident Hamas hostages would be released but did not give a specific timetable.
* Latest death toll: 1,200 people in Israel during Hamas attacks on October 7, and according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, 11,000 people in Gaza, most of them women and children.
Israeli soldiers stormed Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza on Wednesday (11/15) morning local time to search for Hamas militants after giving several minutes’ warning to Health Ministry officials.
“Based on intelligence information and operational needs, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) conducted a precise and targeted operation against Hamas in a specific area of Shifa hospital,” the IDF said in a statement. They urged all Hamas fighters to surrender.
The IDF said its forces consist of “medical and Arabic-speaking teams, who have undergone special training to prepare for this complex and sensitive environment, with the aim that no casualties are caused to civilians.”
The military also said it had sent incubators, baby food and medical supplies to hospitals targeted in the conflict.
After searching the medical complex, Israel said they found weapons, intelligence material and communications equipment belonging to Hamas. The Hamas-run Health Ministry said the Israeli military did not find any weapons.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement, “There is no place in Gaza we cannot reach. There is no hiding place. There is no shelter or protection for Hamas, the murderers.”
“We will reach and eliminate Hamas and we will return the hostages,” the Israeli leader said. “These are two sacred missions.”
Munir al-Boursh, a senior official at Gaza’s Health Ministry, said Israeli forces searched the basement and other buildings in Shifa, including the area housing the emergency and surgical departments.
“They are still here,” he said by telephone from inside the hospital, hours after the raid began. “Patients, women and children are scared.”
It was impossible to assess the situation inside the tunnel independently.
Previously, the United States supported Israel’s claim that Hamas – which the US has designated a terror group – used a number of hospitals as protection for its combatants. Israel said Al Shifa Hospital specifically had a command center under it.
Israel has not provided photos or videos to support its claims of Hamas militants in Shifa, although it has shared footage of militants operating in residential neighborhoods and placing rockets and weapons near schools and mosques.
Hamas and the hospital have denied the allegations.
A corner inside Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City that was converted into a temporary operating room in this photo taken on November 12, 2023. (Photo: Ahmed El Mokhallalati/via Reuters)
The militant group said in a statement that US President Joe Biden’s administration had essentially given the IDF the “green light” to carry out the attack and said Biden would take “full responsibility” for the outcome of the operation.
The White House rejected Hamas’ claims. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters, “We do not authorize their military operations (IDF.ed) around the hospital.”
Hamas said around 650 patients and 5,000-7,000 Palestinian civilians had taken refuge on the hospital grounds.
After the hospital raid, Biden spoke with Netanyahu about the latest developments in the war. The White House said they discussed at length ongoing efforts to secure the release of the hostages, including nine US citizens and a foreign national who has the right to work in the US.
Biden, on Tuesday, said he was confident hostages held by Hamas militants in Gaza would be released but did not provide a timetable. He sent a message to some 240 hostages being held: “Hang in there. We come.”
Call for a truce
World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Israel’s attack on Al Shifa Hospital was “completely unacceptable.”
“Hospitals are not battlefields,” he said on Wednesday.
UN Humanitarian Chief Martin Griffiths issued a statement saying, “As the carnage in Gaza reaches new levels of horror with each passing day, the world continues to watch in shock as hospitals are attacked, premature babies die, and entire populations lose access to health services, a basic means of survival . This cannot be allowed to continue.”
He urged the warring parties to “respect international humanitarian law, agree to a humanitarian ceasefire and stop fighting.”
Hospitals must be protected
On Tuesday, Biden said hospitals in Gaza “must be protected” as Israeli forces continue to target health facilities in the Palestinian enclave over claims that Hamas uses them as cover to hide its command centers and weapons.
Kirby told reporters that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants operate a command and control center from Al Shifa and use tunnels beneath it to support their military operations and take hostages. He said the militants had stored weapons there and were ready to respond to an Israeli military operation against the facility.
“To be clear, we do not support airstrikes on hospitals, and we do not want to see firefights in hospitals where innocent people, defenseless people, sick people are just trying to get medical care. they deserve, so as not to be caught in the crossfire,” said Kirby, adding that Hamas’ actions “do not diminish Israel’s responsibility to protect civilians in Gaza.”
The victim died
Palestinian authorities in Gaza say more than 11,000 people – about 40% of whom are children – have been killed since Israel launched a massive air and ground offensive in response to an Oct. 7 Hamas militant attack in southern Israel that killed 1,200 people. . Around 240 people were kidnapped and are currently being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.
The UN humanitarian office said on Tuesday that more than two-thirds of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million had fled their homes since the war began.
The Israeli military said it had seized several government facilities in Gaza City, including the territory’s legislative building, Hamas police headquarters and a compound housing Hamas’ military intelligence headquarters.
“In every location, enemy forces were eliminated, the location was destroyed,” said an Israeli commander.
As its military offensive intensified, Israel resisted growing international pressure to impose a ceasefire to allow the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian aid to Gaza. However, it has agreed to a daily four-hour humanitarian pause to allow the opening of two corridors that would allow Palestinians to leave the northern Gaza region.
National Security Advisor John Kirby on Tuesday from the NSC said that in the past 24 hours, about 115 more trucks carrying humanitarian aid were able to enter Gaza, bringing the total number of trucks to 1,100. (my/lt)
VOA Correspondent Margaret Besheer and VOA White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this report. Some information in this report was also taken from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.