Israel pounds Gaza with air strikes as hospitals remain under siege

More than 400 people killed in 13 days of siege at Al Shifa Hospital, according to Gaza media office

Palestinians collect their belongings from the rubble of a residential building destroyed by an Israeli air strike in the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza. AP
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Israeli air strikes hit targets across Gaza on Sunday as the enclave's largest hospital remained on the front line of the war.

Local media reported Israeli air strikes on a makeshift camp close to Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir Al Balah.

Four people were killed and 16 others injured in the strike, which was "in the yard" of the hospital, reported the official Palestinian news agency Wafa. Video shared by Wafa showed an injured man crawling out from a tent where a small fire burned after apparently being hit by an air strike.

The Israeli military said it had struck "an operational Islamic Jihad command center" and that the hospital itself was not damaged.

According to the Quds Network, five journalists were among those injured in the attack on the camp. Ninety Palestinian journalists have been killed and 16 more arrested since the outbreak of the war, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The latest strike close to a hospital came after days of violence in and around Gaza's health centres, which are already in a state of collapse.

Al Shifa Medical Complex in Gaza city has been under Israeli siege for almost two weeks.

On Sunday, Gaza's government media office said that more than 400 people had been killed during 13 days of Israeli operations at the hospital.

More than 100 patients in the hospital are surviving without water, electricity or medication, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. The ministry accused Israeli forces of preventing all attempts to evacuate patients through international groups.

Israel accuses Hamas and other Palestinian militants of using hospitals as operational bases, which the group denies.

The Israeli military claims to have killed more than 170 militants in its raid on Al Shifa, including Hamas officials Raad Thabat and Mahmoud Khalil Ziqzouq. On Sunday, it said that it had eliminated "terrorists in close-quarters combat and located weapons in the area, all the while preventing harm to civilians, patients and medical teams".

Witnesses from Al Shifa have rejected Israel's claims to be preventing harm to civilians, and instead report that Palestinian men were stripped, beaten and detained, while women and children were separated and forced to flee south.

Alongside Al Shifa in Gaza city, Israeli forces are also operating in Al Amal Hospital and Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

The Palestinian Red Crescent, whose headquarters in Gaza is in Al Amal Hospital, reported this week that the medical centre had ceased functioning.

"The cessation of operations in most northern hospitals, due to acute fuel shortages, absence of medicines, and medical equipment, coupled with the lack of safe access, has been catastrophic," the PRCS said in a statement.

"The forced closure of Al Amal Hospital, one of the few remaining medical facilities in the south, has profound implications, leaving countless lives at risk," it said.

With Gaza's healthcare system near collapse and most Gazans displaced from their homes after almost six months of war, aid groups have repeatedly warned of impending famine if more aid is not allowed into the enclave.

Attempts to provide vital aid to Gaza via land, sea and air have also come with danger, as desperate Palestinians risk their lives to reach the aid. This week, at least 12 Palestinians drowned trying to collect aid that had been dropped from planes into the sea.

Palestinians looking for aid from aid lorries have also come to harm in several deadly incidents in which Israeli troops have opened fire on crowds.

At least 12 Palestinians were killed and 30 injured in attacks on civilians waiting for aid in Gaza city over the weekend, the Palestinian Wafa news agency reported.

Witnesses told AFP that shots were fired, both by Gazans overseeing the delivery and Israeli troops nearby, and that panicked lorry drivers sped off and hit several people.

Wafa said that Israeli soldiers used tanks and machine guns to fire at dozens awaiting aid at the Kuwait Roundabout. The roundabout was the site of the "flour massacre", in which at least 112 people were killed after Israeli troops opened fire on surging crowds on February 29.

The Israeli military admitted opening fire in the February incident but blamed the deaths on a crowd crush. It did not comment on the most recent incident.

Elsewhere in Gaza, 13 Palestinians were killed in Israeli air strikes on Khan Younis on Sunday morning, reported Wafa. Dozens were wounded in the strike on Bani Suheila in the east of the city, Wafa said.

A further three people were killed in a strike on the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza.

At least 32,782 Palestinians had been killed and 75,298 wounded in Gaza as of Sunday morning, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.

Updated: March 31, 2024, 1:03 PM