Israeli army launches new raid at Gaza's Al Shifa Hospital

Military says it killed Hamas's head of internal security in operation which witnesses say resulted in the deaths of several civilians

Israel conducts new raid on Al Shifa Hospital

Israel conducts new raid on Al Shifa Hospital
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Israel launched a military operation at Al Shifa Hospital on Monday, leading to several civilian deaths at the largest medical complex in the northern part of Gaza and sparking a fire in its surgical building, witnesses and local reports have said.

Gaza's Health Ministry said “a number of martyrs and wounded have fallen” since the operation began on Monday morning.

Israel claimed to have killed Hamas’s head of internal security, Fa'iq Mabhouh, during the raid.

“Mabhouh was responsible, among other things, for synchronising Hamas mechanisms in Gaza in routine and combat,” the Israeli army said on X.

The military later said it had killed 20 militants and that “dozens of apprehended suspects are currently in questioning”.

The Israeli army has routinely accused Hamas of using hospitals as command centres, a claim fiercely denied by the Hamas-run Health Ministry and authorities at Al Shifa.

This announcement came hours after a fifth-year medical student named Ezz Eddin Lulu posted his latest video from inside the hospital, in which he described siege-like conditions facing medical staff and civilians there.

“We were told that anyone who tries to walk around the hospital will be targeted by snipers. We can't go outside to tend to the injured, or even move in between buildings,” he said in a video posted on Instagram on Monday.

“Some families have gone outside and were targeted and killed. The martyrs are littered on the floors – without a shroud.”

The hospital has been under siege for three days without food, electricity or running water, he said.

“We can't perform ablution for prayers. We call on everyone who calls themselves a human for immediate intervention before the hospital turns into a mass grave.”

About 5,000 injured patients were being treated at the hospital, and at least 30,000 displaced people, the ministry said.

The Israeli military said it was conducting a “precise operation” based on intelligence “indicating the use of the hospital by senior Hamas terrorists”, and ordered Gazans to leave the area as battles raged at the hospital and in the areas around it.

In a post on social media platform X, military spokesman Lt Col Avichay Adraee told Gaza residents in Al Rimal district and displaced people in Al Shifa Hospital to immediately evacuate the area and “then cross Al Rashid [Al Bahr] Street, to the south, to the humanitarian area in Al Mawasi”.

A witness inside the hospital said Israeli forces had already surrounded the medical centre when the operation began just before suhoor, the predawn meal before the day's fast during Ramadan, with the sound of intense gunfire and heavy shelling heard around the complex.

“Some people attempted to assess what was happening outside and found that snipers had positioned themselves in various areas around the complex,” Imad Al Nathir told The National.

Three hours later, Israeli forces tore down the gates and began to evacuate the hospital's compound.

“Soldiers then started calling on people to come out and surrender. They asked the displaced people to leave immediately.”

Haitham Alian, a relative of a patient at the hospital, said people who tried to escape were shot.

“Some individuals tried to escape but Israeli gunfire caught up with them, resulting in injuries for some and others turning back.”

Mr Alian said he saw people being shot and killed in the surgical building where he was at the time of the attack.

The government media office in Gaza condemned the operation, saying that “the storming of Al Shifa medical complex with tanks, drones and weapons, and shooting inside it, is a war crime”.

The head of the World Health Organisation said the agency was “terribly worried” about the situation at the hospital on Monday.

“Hospitals should never be battlegrounds,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We are terribly worried about the situation at Al Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza, which is endangering health workers, patients and civilians.

“The hospital has only recently restored minimal health services. Any hostilities or militarisation of the facility jeopardise health services, access for ambulances and delivery of life-saving supplies,” he said in a statement to X, formerly Twitter, also calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

In addition to the raids at Al Shifa, the Israeli army has carried out operations at several other medical centres in the enclave since the start of the war.

The war started after Hamas launched a deadly attack into southern Israel on October 7.

Israel has carried out a relentless bombardment and ground offensive that Gaza's Health Ministry says has killed more than 31,700 people, most of them women and children.

Updated: March 18, 2024, 4:21 PM