Israeli operation rages around major Gaza hospitals

Published March 26, 2024
A Palestinian family mourns the death of a relative who was killed in Israeli bombardment, at Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah.—AFP
A Palestinian family mourns the death of a relative who was killed in Israeli bombardment, at Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah.—AFP

GAZA STRIP: Israeli forces fought fighters in besieged Gaza on Monday including around at least two major hospitals, raising fears for the patients, medics and displaced people trapped inside.

Troops and tanks have encircled Gaza City’s Al-Shifa Hospital, the territory’s biggest, for a week and more recently moved on the Al-Amal Hospital in the main southern city of Khan Yunis.

While Israel has labelled its operations “precise” and said it has taken care to avoid harm to civilians, aid agencies have voiced alarm about civilians caught up in the fighting.

UN chief Antonio Guterres, on a crisis visit to the Middle East, has pleaded for an end to the “non-stop nightmare” for the 2.4 million people trapped in Gaza’s worst-ever crisis.

As Israel’s top ally the United States has also voiced rising concern. US Vice President Kamala Harris stressed on ABC TV that a Rafah invasion would be “a huge mistake” and, when asked whether she would rule out “consequences” for Israel, replied that “I am ruling out nothing”.

‘We are suffering’

The health ministry in the Gaza Strip put the total Palestinian death toll at 32,333, most of them women and children. Bombardment and fighting in Gaza killed another 72 people overnight, according to the ministry.

More than 50 airstrikes rained down on the Gaza Strip, said the Hamas government press office.Food and water shortages have deepened the suffering, especially in northern Gaza where residents, mostly women and children, were waiting in line to fill up jerrycans and buckets in Jabalia.

Palestinians living near Al Shifa report hellish conditions, including corpses in the streets

“We don’t even have food to give us the energy to go to collect the water — let alone the innocent children, women and the elderly,” said one man, Bassam Mohammed al-Haou.

Another local man, Falah Saed, said “we are suffering a lot from water shortages because all and pipes and pumps have stopped working since the beginning of the war”.

Hospital battles

Palestinians living near Al Shifa have reported hellish conditions, including corpses in the streets, constant bombardment and the rounding up of men, who are stripped to their underwear and questioned.

The Al Shifa raid was in its eighth day and the military reported detaining some 500 people. Israel has said the operation will continue until the last militant is “in their hands”, signalling an extended presence at Al Shifa, which troops also raided in November.

At Al Amal Hospital, the Palestinian Red Crescent said Israeli forces had surrounded all entrances and prohibited hospital staff from leaving.

The military said its Al Amal operation included “raids on several terrorist infrastructure sites in the area and located explosive devices, RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) and military equipment”.

The Red Crescent said military vehicles had also surrounded the nearby Nasser hospital, but the situation there remained unclear.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2024

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