JERUSALEM: The Israeli army claimed on Tuesday it had captured Gaza’s parliament building and other government institutions run by Hamas in Gaza City, as its forces deepened their offensive in the besieged Palestinian enclave.
Military units “took over the Hamas parliament, the government building, the Hamas police headquarters and an engineering faculty that served as an institute for the production and development of weapons”, the army claimed in a statement.
Hamas dismissed the Israeli army’s claim that it had taken over institutions.
The move was a “pathetic attempt to manufacture victory and imaginary control of empty places or those previously targeted and destroyed”, Bassem Naim, a senior Hamas official, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the director of Gaza’s main hospital said the facility had been forced to bury scores of dead patients in a mass grave, while thousands of Palestinians were trapped inside.
While Israeli forces were at the gates of the sprawling Al Shifa Hospital, patients and people seeking shelter were stranded in horrific conditions.
“There are bodies littered in the hospital complex and there is no longer electricity at the morgues,” said Al Shifa hospital director Mohammad Abu Salmiya, adding 179 bodies had been interred so far.
“We were forced to bury them in a mass grave,” he said, adding that seven babies and 29 intensive care patients were among those who had died after fuel for the hospital’s generator ran out.
The United Nations estimates that 2,300 people — patients, staff and displaced civilians — are inside and may be unable to escape from the facility.
The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza put the death toll from Israel’s relentless assault at 11,240 people, mostly civilians, including thousands of children.
Israel’s military says 47 of its troops have been killed in Gaza.
Al Shifa’s fate has become a major focus of the more than five-week crisis, which has stirred international criticism of the suffering and death inflicted on civilians in the besieged territory.
The power supply to hospitals is dire, with the UN saying 22 of 36 are not functional due to lack of generator fuel, damage and combat.
“The 14 hospitals remaining open have barely enough supplies to sustain critical and life-saving surgeries and provide in-patient care, including intensive care,” said the World Health Organisation in the Palestinian Territories.
But the humanitarian crisis includes the hundreds of thousands of people who have fled south at Israel’s urging to get away from the most intense fighting.
Escape is dangerous
But even escaping the fighting is dangerous and wounded Palestinians told reporters how they were hit by a strike on their way south.
“I walked around three to four kilometres while I was bleeding,” said Hasan Baker, whose head and left hand were bandaged. “There was no possibility for any ambulance to enter the area.
In Washington, US President Joe Biden said he believed that a deal with Hamas to free the prisoners the group is holding will happen, but did not offer specifics.
“I’ve been talking with people involved every single day. I believe it’s going to happen but I don’t want to get into detail,” Biden told reporters at the White House when asked about an eventual agreement.
Israeli leaders have so far insisted there will be no “broader ceasefire” until prisoners are released. Qatar is mediating talks on a possible deal to secure the release of prisoners.
Abu Obeida, a spokesman for Hamas, said on Monday Israel had asked for the release of 100 prisoners while the organisation wants 200 Palestinian children and 75 women freed from Israeli prisons.
A spokesperson for Qatar’s foreign affairs ministry told a news conference in Doha that the “deteriorating” situation in Gaza was hampering mediation efforts.
He added: “We believe that there is no other chance for both sides other than for this mediation to take place.”
As security officials and diplomats continued negotiations, Hamas issued a video of Israeli soldier Noa Marciano.
The Israeli army confirmed she was dead.
Abu Obeida said Marciano was killed in an Israeli strike.
The Israeli army did not say how she died.
The Gaza crisis has also affected other fronts.
In Israeli-occupied West Bank, eight Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli troops, seven of them during an army attack on the northern city of Tulkarem, the Palestinian health ministry said. The other death was in the southern city of Hebron.
Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2023