Correspondent in Jerusalem
The Israeli army continues its systematic conquest of the northern Gaza Strip. Fighting is still intense in western Gaza City, where the army announced the capture of the fishing port on Thursday. Located a few hundred meters from the famous al-Shifa hospital, it housed the boats of Gazan sailors. But Israel accuses Hamas of using this infrastructure “as a training center for its naval commando forces to plan and execute naval terrorist attacks.” On October 7, the day of the terrorist attack in which 1,300 Israelis died and 240 were taken hostage, Hamas attackers entered Israel by sea.
The “targeted” operation started on Wednesday in the al-Shifa hospital complex continued on Thursday. The Israeli army released video footage showing military equipment - assault rifles, magazines, grenades - likely abandoned by Hamas fighters in the hospital buildings. The Hamas health ministry says the army has damaged several medical infrastructures. Taking refuge in Khan Younes, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, Doctor Mohammed Zaqout, director general of Gaza hospitals, said he had lost all contact with the medical teams inside the hospital. “The Red Cross, WHO and UNRWA asked us to bring out the wounded, the sick and the premature babies. We try to transfer them according to the capacities of the hospitals operating in the south of the Gaza Strip,” explained the doctor, asking that these patients be treated in Egyptian hospitals.
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In Khan Younes, the Israeli army dropped leaflets asking the population of the eastern neighborhoods of the city to evacuate to “shelters”, suggesting that military operations could soon be carried out in the region. “For your safety, you must immediately evacuate your places of residence and head towards known shelters,” say the leaflets, which cite the neighborhoods of Khuzaa, Abassan, Bani Suheila and al-Qarara. Tens of thousands of people have taken refuge in Khan Younes since the start of the war and the “known shelters”, hospitals or UNRWA centers, are overflowing with people.
Although the war is not over, Israel is already trying to shape the future of the Gaza Strip. In an interview with the Financial Times, Israeli President Isaac Herzog asked this question. “If we withdraw, who will replace us? We cannot leave a void behind us. (…) No one will accept that Gaza becomes a rear base for terrorism again,” he said. More concretely, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the American channel ABC that his country would assume responsibility for the security of the Gaza Strip “for an indefinite period.” But Israel will have to spare the international community. Despite his unwavering support, American President Joe Biden recalled on Wednesday that a two-state solution, Palestinian and Israeli, was the only one likely to resolve the conflict and that a reoccupation of the Gaza Strip would be "a big error".
On Thursday, the spokesperson for the Quai d'Orsay recalled France's official position, according to which it is not up to Israel to decide the political future of the Gaza Strip, which must be part of a future Palestinian state. Breaking its silence for the first time since the start of the conflict, the UN Security Council calls for “urgent and prolonged humanitarian pauses” in the Gaza Strip. After forty-one days of a war which left at least 11,000 victims in the Gaza Strip, Israel appears increasingly threatened with diplomatic isolation.