Panic in Khan Younis hospital as Israel orders evacaution

Israeli air strikes reported on UN-funded schools and cemeteries as hostage talks continue

Smoke rises during an Israeli ground offensive in Khan Younis, as seen from Rafah. Reuters
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Dozens have been killed and injured in Israeli attacks on a UN-funded school, cemetery and crowds heading to Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza city on Monday.

At least 10 people were killed in an Israeli strike on school run by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza city's Al Rimal district, the official Wafa news agency reported on Monday morning.

Two people were also killed after a cemetery in Al Daraj, central Gaza, was bombed while several displaced people headed to Al Shifa hospital to seek shelter were wounded when the army "opened fire" in the direction of the medical centre.

Other attacks were reported across Gaza city, Beit Lahia and Khan Younis, where the last of Gaza's hospitals are on the brink of shutting down.

Civilians near the Palestine Red Crescent's Al Shifa Hospital in Khan Younis have been told to evacuate to Al Mawasi, the organisation said, forcing thousands of displaced people to leave the compound.

“Israeli drones with loudspeakers called residents near Al Amal Hospital and Al Amal neighbourhood to evacuate, instructing immediate relocation to Mawasi west of Khan Younis,” it wrote on X.

“There is a state of panic and tension which prevails among the displaced citizens," Muhammad Abu Musabeh, director of the ambulance and emergency centre, told the Red Cresent.

"We, the medical teams and the displaced citizens, are now at the hospital, waiting to take a decision. Evacuation can only occur through co-ordination or a humanitarian route to ensure the safety of those in the area."

Mr Abu Musabeh said a growing number of internally displaced people are moving to the hospital from the adjacent Red Crescent headquarters.

“Presumably, they believe that this place is protected or falls within the scope of protection beyond the message of the occupation forces."

Several people have been killed at or near the entrance to the hospital in the eight days it has been under siege by the Israeli army.

Three people killed in Israeli fire on Al Amal Hospital and the Red Crescent headquarters were buried in the hospital's courtyard on Sunday, the organisation said.

“This is due to the difficulty of transporting them to an official cemetery due to the ongoing blockade imposed on the hospital,” it wrote on X.

Two of the displaced people were killed on Sunday in front of the Red Crescent headquarters adjacent to the hospital, while the third was shot dead outside Al Amal's emergency department on Saturday, said officials.

Oxygen supplies at the hospital have run out and doctors are no longer able to perform operations, the organisation warned.

About 150 people have been buried in a mass grave at the city's Nasser Hospital, which is also under siege.

The offensive comes at a time when Israeli Prime Minister Bejnamin Netanyahu said talks to broker a hostage deal between Israel and Hamas were constructive but “significant gaps” remained in reaching an agreement.

American, Israeli and Egyptian intelligence chiefs met Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman for the talks.

About 130 hostages remain in the Gaza Strip since a four-day truce in November freed more than 100 others and secured the release of Palestinian detainees held in Israeli jails.

Cairo said a “phased but full” detainee swap and a permanent ceasefire in Gaza must form part of any agreement made between Israel and Hamas, sources told The National ahead of the Paris summit.

Hamas has told Egyptian mediators it would not “entertain” any deal that omits a permanent ceasefire, release of all Palestinian detainees in Israel, and a phased Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, the sources added.

While Israelis continue to protest in favour of a ceasefire deal to secure the release of Israeli captives, the government has repeatedly rejected calls for a lasting truce.

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz has said Israel's war with Hamas may last "an entire generation."

“Complete removal of the threat will take time,” Israel’s Channel 12 reported Mr Gantz as telling Israelis displaced from southern communities bordering Gaza.

There are hopes the Paris meetings will usher in a two-month pause to the fighting in Gaza, which has killed more than 26,000 Palestinians in under four months.

That followed attacks by Hamas militants on Israeli communities on October 7, in which 1,200 people were killed and about 240 abducted.

Updated: January 29, 2024, 1:59 PM