Israel said its army carried out a “targeted” operation against Hamas early Wednesday inside al-Shifa, Gaza’s largest hospital, which is believed to be housing thousands of Palestinians.
The hospital has run out of fuel and is in a state of inactivity Deteriorated rapidly In recent days, amid intense fighting, doctors have warned of an even more “catastrophic” situation for patients, staff and displaced people.
In a statement posted online, the Israel Defense Forces said it had launched “a precise and targeted operation against Hamas in a specific area at Shifa Hospital”.
IDF spokesman Peter Lerner told CNN later Wednesday that the operation at Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital was “ongoing.” So far, the military has found no sign of hostages inside the hospital, Israeli radio reported.
Israeli tanks and military vehicles “were in the courtyard of al-Shifa hospital,” Qader al-Zanoun, a reporter for the Palestinian news agency Wafa, told CNN.
Israeli soldiers, he said, were “conducting search and interrogation operations with the youth amid intense and violent gunfire inside the hospital.” He added that the Israeli army is “calling the youth through megaphones to raise their hands, come out, surrender.”
Earlier, he said, there was gunfire across the hospital courtyard.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Israel again accused Hamas of continuing to use the large hospital complex for military purposes, saying it “affects the hospital’s protected status under international law”.
Hamas and hospital officials continue to deny Israel’s claims that it has built a command center under a Hamas hospital.
The desperate situation at al-Shifa hospital has sparked fresh international protests over Israel’s actions in Gaza. International pressure on the Israeli government has also intensified in recent days amid accounts of dire conditions in Gaza’s other fuel-starved hospitals and severe shortages of food and water.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday repeated his calls for a ceasefire in Gaza “in the name of humanity”.
A doctor inside Al-Shifa told CNN he was alerted 30 minutes before the Israeli operation began.
“We have been asked to stay away from windows and balconies. We are hearing armored vehicles, which are very close to the entrance to the compound,” said Dr. Khaled Abu Samra.
Hundreds of staff and patients are still at Al Shifa, according to the hospital’s latest reports, along with several thousand who have sought refuge from Israeli air and ground attacks.
An Israeli statement said, “The IDF is conducting a ground operation in Gaza to defeat Hamas and rescue our hostages. Israel is at war with Hamas, not with the civilians in Gaza.
Hamas’s statement blamed both Israel and the United States for the attack on the Israeli military hospital. By supporting what it called Israel’s “false narrative” that Hamas uses al-Shifa as a command and control base, it said the US had given Israel “a green light to carry out more massacres against civilians”.
Hours before Israel’s attack, the White House and the Pentagon said it was Hamas Store weapons and operate the command center From the hospital.
The Pentagon said the US has newly declassified intelligence to show that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad al-Shifa are using the hospitals as a way to “cover and support their military operations and hold hostages”.
Palestinian Health Minister Dr Mai al-Qaila said the Israeli military attack represented “a new crime against humanity, medical staff and patients” and could have “catastrophic consequences” for patients and medical staff.
Israel declared war on Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza, and imposed a “total blockade” on October 7 following terrorist attacks by Hamas in Israel. 1,200 people were killed in the attacks by Hamas and about 240 others were killed. The hostages, most of whom are being held captive in Gaza.
Since then, the Israeli response has killed at least 11,180 Palestinians — including 4,609 children and 3,100 women — according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah, which draws medical resources from Gaza.
Doctors and journalists have described the appalling conditions inside al-Shifa, including desperate attempts to keep premature babies alive and procedures limited to candlelight.
“Babies and children still have no water, no food, no milk … the situation in the hospital is catastrophic,” hospital director Mohammed Abu Salmiya told CNN on Monday.
Journalist Al Za’anoun said people in the hospital “are starving, there is no food or water to drink, we don’t get tap water for an hour a day.”
He said dozens of corpses were to be buried in a mass grave in the courtyard of the hospital premises as relatives could not leave to bury their loved ones.
“The scene was terrible, the smell of the dead was unbearable, most of the bodies were women and children,” Al Zanoon told CNN.
Abu Salmiya told Al Jazeera that more than 150 bodies were planned to be buried, but he was worried the cemetery would not be large enough.
In recent days, 15 patients have died in al-Shifa, six of them newborns, due to a lack of electricity and medical supplies, the Palestinian health ministry in Ramallah said, citing its figures from the Hamas-controlled territory.
As oxygen supplies ran out, premature babies were taken from failed incubators and wrapped in foil on Monday in a desperate attempt to keep them alive. The pictures show several newborn babies together in bed.
Egyptian Health Minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar said on Tuesday that steps were being taken to bring 36 newborns from al-Shifa to Egypt, although such a transfer would be risky.
Registered by the World Health Organization At least 137 attacks Regarding health facilities in Gaza, it said there were 521 deaths and 686 injuries.
Other protected sites such as schools, civilian shelters and United Nations facilities have already been damaged or destroyed in Israeli airstrikes. On Monday, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East announced that 100 UN personnel had been killed in Gaza since the fighting began — the most in the history of the United Nations.
This story is breaking and will be updated.