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Palestinian officials say Israeli air strikes hit Gaza hospitals

Palestinian officials say Israeli air strikes hit Gaza hospitals

World

Palestinian officials say Israeli air strikes hit Gaza hospitals

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GAZA (Reuters) - Israeli air strikes hit Gaza's biggest hospital, the Al Shifa, on Friday, killing one person and wounding others sheltering there, Palestinian officials said, one of several hospitals reported struck at dawn as Israel battles Hamas in the heart of the enclave.

Officials said other strikes had damaged parts of the Indonesian Hospital and hit vehicles outside the Rantissi cancer hospital in the northern part of Gaza, where Israel says Hamas militants who attacked it last month are concentrated.

Israeli tanks, which have been advancing through northern Gaza for almost two weeks, have taken up positions around the Rantissi, Al-Quds and Nasser Children's hospitals, raising concern for patients, doctors and evacuees there, medical staff said.

"Israel is now launching a war on Gaza City hospitals, on Rantissi, Nasser hospitals and on Al Shifa," Mohammad Abu Selmeyah, director of Gaza's main Shifa hospital, told Reuters.

Israel did not immediately comment but says it does not target civilians and goes to great lengths to avoid hitting them. It says Hamas militants have hidden command centres and tunnels beneath Al Shifa and other hospitals, allegations which Hamas denies.

"While the world sees neighbourhoods with schools, hospitals, scout groups, children's playgrounds and mosques, Hamas sees an opportunity to exploit," the Israeli military said.

The month-old Israeli military campaign to wipe out Hamas, following the militants' Oct. 7 raid on southern Israel, has left Gaza's hospitals struggling to cope, as medical supplies, clean water and fuel to power generators have been running out.

Israel has faced growing calls for restraint as the Palestinian death toll increases, but says Hamas will just take advantage of any significant pause in its military campaign.

Palestinian officials said 10,812 Gaza residents had been killed as of Thursday, about 40% of them children, in air and artillery strikes.

Israel says 1,400 people were killed, mostly civilians, and about 240 taken hostage by Hamas in the Oct.7 raid that triggered its assault. Israel says it has lost 39 soldiers in Gaza.

Ashraf Al-Qidra, spokesman for the Gaza health ministry, said Israel had bombed buildings of Al Shifa hospital five times since Thursday night.

"They shelled the maternity department and the outpatient clinics building. One Palestinian was killed and several were wounded in the early morning attack," he told Reuters.

In the wake of the blasts, witnesses said many people were starting to leave the grounds of the facility, fearing further strikes.

But Qidra said it was impossible to clear it completely.

"There is no way that we can evacuate, there is no practical way of doing it too. We are talking about 45 babies in incubators, 52 children in intensive care units, hundreds of wounded and patients, and tens of thousands of displaced people," he said.

AIR STRIKES AT DAWN

Palestinian media showed video footage of the aftermath of the Al Shifa strike, with people shouting and crying and several figures covered with blood. Reuters confirmed the location as the covered, outdoor area near the hospital's outpatient department.

A World Heath Organization spokesperson said she did not have details of Friday's incident but quoted colleagues from the hospital as saying it had been coming under bombardment and there was "intense violence" at the site.

Palestinian Health Minister Mai Alkaila said an adult was killed and a child was wounded at Al Shifa, one of several medical facilities hit.

"Israel...targeted at dawn a number of hospitals in the Gaza Strip," her statement said.

Speaking earlier to Al Jazeera television, ministry spokesman Qidra said strikes on the hospital grounds at Rantisi had set vehicles on fire but they had been partly extinguished.

A person who said they were a member of staff of Nasser Children's Hospital posted an appeal on social media.

"We are blockaded inside the hospital by tanks, and we are exposed to heavy fire against us. We don't have electricity, no oxygen for patients, no fresh water or salt. The situation here is very difficult and dangerous," it said.

Indonesia said there were explosions near the Indonesian Hospital overnight, which damaged parts of the hospital, located at the northern end of the narrow coastal enclave. It did not say who was responsible for the explosion and it did not report any deaths or injuries.

"Indonesia once again condemns the savage attacks on civilians and civilian objects, especially humanitarian facilities in Gaza," its foreign ministry said in a statement.

Gaza's health ministry has said 18 of Gaza's 35 hospitals and 40 other health centres were out of service either due to damage from shelling or lack of fuel.

"With ongoing strikes and fighting nearby (Al Shifa), we are gravely concerned about the well-being of thousands of civilians there, many children among them, seeking medical care and shelter," Human Rights Watch posted on social media.

US SAYS ISRAEL AGREES TO PAUSES

Israel's military advance on central Gaza City, which brought tanks within about 1.2 kilometre (3/4 mile) of Shifa, according to residents, has raised questions about how Israel will interpret international laws on protecting medical centres and displaced people sheltering there.

The Israeli military has allowed some wounded Palestinian civilians to cross into Egypt for treatment and has announced daily windows for civilians to flee northern Gaza for the south.

Deadly air strikes on refugee camps, a medical convoy and near hospitals have already prompted fierce arguments among some of Israel's Western allies over its military's adherence to international law.

U.N. agencies have issued regular calls for a ceasefire, which both sides have rejected. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Turk said any use of civilians by Palestinian armed groups to shield themselves would contravene the laws of war but that such conduct did not absolve Israel of its obligation to spare civilians.

Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy posted a statement saying: "Your daily reminder that Hamas HQ is located in the basement of the Shifa Hospital, and that under international law, this exposes it to lose its protected status and become a legitimate target."
 




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