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An Israeli air attack on an ambulance being used to evacuate the wounded from besieged northern Gaza killed 15 people and injured 60 others on Friday, the Hamas-controlled enclave's health ministry said.
Israeli “aircraft struck an ambulance that was identified by forces as being used by a Hamas terrorist cell in proximity to their position in the battle zone”, an Israeli military statement said.
The military claimed a number of Hamas fighters had been killed in the strike and that it had information that Hamas was using ambulances to transport fighters and weapons.
Palestinian health authorities in Gaza said had Israel struck a convoy of ambulances that was to leave Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza city towards the south of the enclave to evacuate injured people.
Ashraf Al Qidra, the Gaza Health Ministry's spokesman, said the convoy was hit both at the hospital gate and at Ansar Square a kilometre away.
Hamas-run Al Aqsa television cited the ministry as saying scores of people had been killed or injured.
Video shared on social media, verified by Reuters, showed people lying in blood next to an ambulance with flashing lights on a city street as people rushed to help.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has condemned the attack on the convoy of ambulances.
The PRCS said early on Saturday that one of its ambulances was struck “by a missile fired by the Israeli forces”, about two metres from the entrance to the Al Shifa hospital in Gaza city.
The attack resulted in the deaths of 15 civilians and wounded 60 other people, it said, mirroring figures released by the Hamas-run health ministry.
Another ambulance, belonging to the health ministry, was “directly targeted” by a missile around one kilometre from the hospital, causing injuries and damage, the PRCS said.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was “horrified” by the strike, adding that the conflict “must stop”.
“I am horrified by the reported attack in Gaza on an ambulance convoy outside Al Shifa hospital. The images of bodies strewn on the street outside the hospital are harrowing,” he said in the statement.
Insisting he did “not forget the terror attacks committed in Israel by Hamas”, the UN chief added that “for nearly one month, civilians in Gaza, including children and women, have been besieged, denied aid, killed, and bombed out of their homes.
“This must stop,” he said.
Earlier on Friday, Mr Al Qidra said ambulances would send critically injured Palestinians from Gaza city to the south of the enclave where they would cross over into Egypt for treatment.
Israel, which has accused Hamas of concealing command centres and tunnel entrances in Al Shifa Hospital, ordered all civilians to leave the north of Gaza last month. The military announced it had encircled the area on Thursday.
Hamas and Al Shifa Hospital authorities have denied the facility is used as a base by militant fighters.
World Health Organisation head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was “utterly shocked by reports of attacks on ambulances evacuating patients close to Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza, leading to deaths, injuries and damage”.
“We reiterate: health workers, facilities and ambulances must be protected at all times,” Dr Tedros said in a post on X, the social platform formerly known as Twitter.