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Israeli tanks closed in on several hospitals across the Gaza Strip on Saturday, terrifying medical staff and civilians sheltering in and around the compounds, aid groups said.
International agencies called on Israel to protect civilians in Gaza as battles with Hamas intensified around hospitals, where thousands Palestinians have sought refuge from intense bombardment and gun battles.
People were shot by snipers as they tried to flee Al Shifa hospital, Gaza's largest medical centre, aid group Doctors without Borders (MSF) said.
"Our staff are witnessing people being shot at as they attempt to flee Al Shifa hospital," the international group said.
During the 24-hour period "hospitals have been under relentless bombardment. Al Shifa hospital has been hit multiple times," it added.
MSF said that “our teams and patients are still inside” the hospital.
Al Shifa hospital compound was struck repeatedly overnight and lost power for hours after its generator was hit, director general Mohammad Abu Salmiya said.
"We received calls for about dozens of dead and hundreds wounded in air and artillery strikes, but our ambulances weren't able to go out," he added.
The Norwegian Refugee Council said those seeking shelter and treatment in hospitals had nowhere to go.
Angelita Caredda, the NRC’s Middle East regional director, said roads leading to the south of Gaza were impassable in vehicles.
"The harm to patients besieged in hospitals and the lasting effects of depriving the population of major medical facilities in a time of armed conflict may very well be unlawful," she said.
"Medical facilities and personnel exclusively engaged in the treatment of the sick and wounded have special protection under international humanitarian law that must be respected in all circumstances."
It would be a breach of international law if hospitals are not protected in the fighting, the humanitarian official said.
Earlier on Saturday, Palestinian Health Minister Mai Al Kaila, said 20 out of 35 hospitals in Gaza were forced to stop operating due to lack of fuel and damage from Israeli bombardment.
The minister urged the international community to intervene and stop attacks on hospitals and medical staff.
“We demand that fuel be allowed into Gaza to ensure that hospitals can operate,” she said.
Al Shifa officials said there were 39 babies born premature and admitted at the hospital, who are at the risk of death. One died on Saturday morning.
"Not delivering fuel to hospitals will be a death sentence for the rest. Incubators will be able to work until Saturday evening and then fuel will run out," she said.
Israel has denied targeting hospitals and its army has accused Hamas of using the medical facilities as command centres and hideouts for its fighters, a charge the Palestinian militant group denies.
Health staff accuse Israel of launching a “war against hospitals”.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said on Saturday that Israeli tanks were 20 metres away from Al Quds hospital.
The Israelis were shooting at the centre, which has about 14,000 displaced people in a state of “extreme panic and fear”, Palestinian Red Crescent representative Nebal Farsakh said.
"Our staff are working under continuous threat of losing their lives because of bombardments and ground attacks against hospitals," she said.
Medical staff are working in conditions where they have minimum medical supplies, no electricity, water or food.
Also in the north, the director of Gaza's Indonesian hospital said fuel shortages had forced the centre to cut off power to sections such as the desalination plant, scanners and elevators.
"The hospital is working at 30-40 per cent of its capacity," Atef Al Kahlot said.
"We call on the honourable people of the world, if any of them are left, to put pressure on the occupation forces to supply the Indonesian hospital and the rest of the hospitals in the Gaza Strip."