Dozens of Israeli soldiers, some hooded and firing in the air, order Gazans sheltering in al-Shifa hospital to surrender. The battle around the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip is now taking place in its departments and floors, says a journalist working with AFP on site.
Israeli soldiers shout over loudspeakers in heavily accented Arabic: “All men 16 years and older, raise your hands in the air and exit the buildings toward the inner courtyard to surrender.” Immediately, hundreds of young people left the various services of the immense complex located in the west of Gaza City, where the fighting between Israeli tanks and Hamas fighters, in power in Gaza, supported by their allies of Islamic Jihad.
Both organizations are considered “terrorist” by Israel, the United States and the European Union. According to the UN, around 2,300 people, including patients, caregivers and war-displaced people are inside al-Shifa, surrounded for several days by tanks and troop transports of the Israeli army.
According to doctors and international NGOs, none of them can go out or risk being shot at while fighting rages nearby. On Wednesday morning, columns of Palestinians, hands in the air, converged towards the hospital courtyard, arriving from the burns department, the maternity ward, recently targeted by artillery fire, the surgery department and even of the dialysis department, reports the journalist.
A thousand people are now on the large esplanade of the hospital complex, hands in the air. Some were stripped naked by Israeli soldiers. Inside, in the corridors of the different departments of al-Chifa, which was built in 1946 and where teams of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) operate, soldiers fire into the air as they go from room to room, obviously looking for Hamas fighters.
Women and crying children are searched. Others must pass under a terminal equipped with a reconnaissance camera, the same ones that were installed along the evacuation corridors to the south of the Gaza Strip, according to the journalist.
For years, Israel has accused Hamas of using Gaza's hospitals as bases, of having dug a network of tunnels under al-Shifa and of using its patients as "human shields". The Islamist movement and the Ministry of Health in Gaza deny this and have, on several occasions, called for the visit of “international commissions of inquiry”.
Israeli tanks have now entered the complex, stationed in front of various departments including the emergency room. Already in recent days, the generators have stopped running due to lack of fuel, not a drop of which has entered Gaza since the start of the war on October 7. Two days later, Israel imposed a “complete siege” on the 2.4 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip.
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At least nine premature babies died after being taken out of incubators, while 27 patients in intensive care died because they no longer had working ventilators, according to the Hamas health ministry. A mass grave dug in the complex already contains “179 bodies” according to the director of the hospital, Doctor Mohammed Abou Salmiya.
The Israeli army claims to have sent “medical teams” and “Arabic-speaking” soldiers for its “targeted operation” on “a specific area” of al-Shifa. Wednesday morning, she also announced that she had “delivered incubators, baby food and medical equipment” alongside her “operation”.
If, every day, the UN, international NGOs and the World Health Organization (WHO) repeat that a hospital “should never be attacked”, for Israel, the entry of its troops into al-Shifa does not violate international law. For Hamas, it is “a war crime and a crime against humanity.”
Since the October 7 massacre committed by Hamas in Israel, around 1,200 Israelis have been killed, the majority civilians, according to Israeli authorities. The latter bombards the Gaza Strip day and night from the air, sea and ground. More than 11,000 Palestinians were killed in these strikes, according to the Hamas Ministry of Health, two-thirds of them women and children.