Israeli Army Conducts Targeted Operation at Al-Chifa Hospital
Israeli Army Enters Al-Chifa Hospital in Gaza – Concerns Rise for Palestinian Civilians. UN and NGOs Express Alarm over Civilian Situation in Northern Palestinian Enclave amid Ongoing Israeli Military Operations.
At the 40th day of the war between Israel and Hamas, the Israeli army announced early Wednesday a ‘targeted operation against Hamas in a specific section of Al-Chifa Hospital’ in the northern Gaza Strip, as stated in a press release. Israeli soldiers are questioning individuals, including patients and doctors, within the hospital, while tanks and troop carriers surround the complex.
While the UN and NGOs express concerns about the situation of civilians in hospitals in the northern Gaza Strip, the focal point of Israeli military operations, the Israeli army stated that it has dispatched ‘Arabic-speaking and trained medical teams’ for this ‘complex’ environment to ensure ‘no harm is caused to civilians.
‘What’s important is that no patient is harmed.'
A Palestinian official emphasizes the crucial need to safeguard patients and civilians in al-Shifa hospital as he warns of crowded corridors where people are seeking shelter.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) November 15, 2023
In Al-Chifa Hospital, Youssef Abou Rich, the Hamas Deputy Health Minister, informed AFP that ‘dozens of Israeli soldiers and commandos’ were present ‘in the emergency and reception’ areas, with ‘tanks entering the hospital complex.’ He pleaded for immediate intervention from the UN and the international community to halt this operation.
With thousands, including the sick, medical staff, and war-displaced civilians, crowded into Al-Chifa Hospital, doctors and international NGOs state that none can leave without risking being targeted by gunfire, amidst ongoing clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian fighters.
The war triggered on October 7 by the Hamas attack has resulted in approximately 1,200 casualties, the majority being civilians, according to Israeli authorities. About 240 hostages and prisoners have been abducted and taken to Gaza, as reported by the army.
In retaliation, Israel has relentlessly shelled the Gaza Strip and launched a ground operation on October 27. Israeli airstrikes have claimed the lives of 11,320 people, predominantly civilians, including 4,650 children, according to the Hamas Health Ministry.
During the night, the Hamas Health Ministry stated that the Israeli army had notified the hospital of its intention to carry out an operation. ‘We hold the occupation, the international community, and the United States entirely responsible for the safety of thousands of medical team members, the wounded, and the displaced within the compound. We warn against a massacre at the hospital,’ the ministry had indicated.
The Israeli army contends that Al-Chifa Hospital harbors strategic infrastructure of Hamas, accusing the group of using the population as ‘human shields,’ a claim echoed by the United States, Israel’s main ally. Palestinian officials, including the Gaza Health Ministry, vehemently deny this and have repeatedly called for the visit of ‘international investigative commissions.’
‘The adoption of the false narrative by the White House and the Pentagon, asserting that the resistance is using Al-Chifa for military purposes, has given the occupation the green light to commit further massacres against civilians,’ stated Hamas.
Al-Chifa’s director, Mohammed Abou Salmiya, reported on Tuesday that at least ‘179 bodies’ had to be buried in a mass grave. ‘There are bodies scattered in the hospital complex, and the morgue refrigeration units are no longer powered,’ he also told AFP before the Israeli operation in the hospital.
The pressure is mounting in Israel for the government to secure the release of hostages. The Families of Hostages and Missing Persons Forum demanded on Tuesday evening that the government approve an agreement in this regard. Earlier, about a hundred relatives of hostages had started a march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, heading to the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Simultaneously, an Egyptian television report indicated that the head of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, had discussed ‘the prisoner exchange file’ in Cairo, especially as two hostages were recently released by Hamas through Egyptian territory.
On Sunday, the Israeli Prime Minister mentioned the possibility of an agreement to free hostages. However, Hamas later accused Israel of ‘hesitating’ on the release.
In Gaza, under complete Israeli siege since October 9, the humanitarian situation is dire, as per NGOs. The population is deprived of water, electricity, food, and medicine supplies. Humanitarian aid trickles in from neighboring Egypt.
In recent days, tens of thousands of Palestinians have fled the northern Gaza Strip, turned into a field of ruins, following Israel’s opening of ‘corridors’ for evacuation. According to the UN, over 1.6 million of the territory’s 2.4 million inhabitants have been displaced by the war.
In the southern part of the territory, also affected by Israeli airstrikes, hundreds of thousands of displaced people are crowded near the border with Egypt, close to the Rafah crossing point. This is the only exit from the Palestinian enclave not controlled by Israel, and conditions there are extremely harsh.