Growing outcry at Al Shifa siege as West Bank violence surges

Israel-Gaza war leading to increased violence in occupied West Bank, where five Palestinians killed by Israeli strikes in Tulkarm

Palestinians injured in Israeli raids arrive at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. Getty Images
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Three Palestinians were killed in a drone strike on Monday evening in the city of Tulkarm, in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian news agency Wafa has said.

This comes amid the increased use of Israeli air power in the West Bank.

Wafa said two other Palestinians had been shot dead in a Tulkarm refugee camp.

As the war in Gaza rages, the West Bank has also been gripped by a surge in violence that has killed 186 people since the start of the current conflict on October 7.

It comes as concern mounts for the fate of thousands of people sheltering in Gaza city's Al Shifa Hospital, the main health centre in the Palestinian enclave.

Israeli tanks are now metres from the hospital entrance, where around 150 people have been killed in recent bombardments, according to the World Health Organisation.

Health workers have been unable to collect the bodies due to Israeli attacks.

Amid the heavy Israeli bombardment of Gaza, where more than 11,000 people have been killed and tens of thousands wounded, the West Bank has become a powder keg of anger.

Even before the war, Israel had increasingly been employing air power in occupied towns and cities, including Jenin, where helicopter gunships supported raids in June and July in the refugee camp on the eastern side of the city.

Drones were also used in those operations, in which around 20 people were killed and scores injured.

After the Hamas attack into southern Israel on October 7, Israeli air strikes targeted Al Ansar Mosque in Jenin.

Violence in Jenin has since increased, with at least 14 people killed in an Israeli raid last week, said the Palestinian Health Ministry.

US-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War said Palestinian groups had also detonated five improvised explosive devices in fighting across the West Bank on Monday.

In Gaza, there have been conflicting reports on the number of people trapped in Al Shifa Hospital, where health workers have reported people being shot trying to leave.

On Tuesday, Hamas said 2,300 people remain in the complex, while the WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said there were 600 people in the building itself.

He did not specify how many people were sheltering in car parks and yards around the building, although Hamas said around 700 health workers, 650 patients and 1,500 displaced people were at risk.

US President Joe Biden said on Monday evening that the Israelis must take extreme caution and “less intrusive action” around Al Shifa, urging that “hospitals must be protected”.

The ongoing crisis has apparently caused strong dissent within the US State Department, where Secretary of State Antony Blinken has emailed colleagues through what is known as the dissent channel.

“I know that for many of you, the suffering caused by this crisis is taking a profound personal toll,” Mr Blinken said in the letter obtained by Reuters.

“The anguish that comes with seeing the daily images of babies, children, elderly people, women, and other civilians suffering in this crisis is wrenching. I feel it myself.”

“I also know that some people in the department may disagree with approaches we are taking or have views on what we can do better.

“We’ve organised forums in Washington to hear from you, and urged managers and teams to have candid discussions at posts around the world precisely so we can hear your feedback and ideas,” added Mr Blinken.

Updated: November 14, 2023, 1:17 PM