Israeli troops enter Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital after gunbattle at gates

user avatar Author: Editors Desk Source: CBC News:
November 15, 2023 at 06:34
Doctor inside hospital says tanks on grounds, gunfire heard
Smoke rises during an Israeli military bombardment of the northern Gaza Strip on on Monday amid ongoing battles between Israel and Hamas. (Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images)
Smoke rises during an Israeli military bombardment of the northern Gaza Strip on on Monday amid ongoing battles between Israel and Hamas. (Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images)

Israeli troops entered Gaza's biggest hospital on Wednesday and were searching its rooms and basement, witnesses said, culminating a siege that caused global alarm after what Israel said was a deadly clash at the gates.

Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City has become the main target of the ground operation by Israeli forces, who say Hamas fighters have their headquarters in tunnels beneath it, which Hamas denies.

World attention has been focused on the fate of hundreds of patients and thousands of displaced civilians trapped inside. Gaza officials say many patients including three newborn babies have died in recent days as a result of Israel's encirclement of the facility.

Israel said its troops killed fighters in a clash outside the gates, and had brought medical supplies for those inside.

"Before entering the hospital our forces were confronted by explosive devices and terrorist squads, fighting ensued in which terrorists were killed," the Israeli military said.


A group of people gather around a fire, warming their hands. Tents are pictured in the background.
Displaced Palestinians sit in front of their tent, by a lit fire, in Khan Younis in southern Gaza on Monday. Around two-thirds of Gaza's 2.3 million people have been made homeless, unable to escape the territory where food, fuel, fresh water and medical supplies are running out. (Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images)

"We can confirm that incubators, baby food and medical supplies brought by IDF tanks from Israel have successfully reached the Shifa hospital. Our medical teams and Arabic speaking soldiers are on the ground to ensure that these supplies reach those in need," the Israeli military said.

Dr Ahmed El Mohallalati, a surgeon, told Reuters by phone that staff were in hiding as the fighting unfolded outside the hospital overnight.

Israeli tanks enter hospital grounds

"So yesterday early evening it started... shooting around the hospital and within the hospital. And the sound was really horrible. Look, you can feel that it's, you know, it's very near to the hospital," he said.

"And then we realized that the tanks are moving around the hospital. One of the big tanks entered within the hospital from the eastern main gate, and they were, they were they just parked in the front of the hospital emergency department."

"All kinds of weapons were used around the hospital. They targeted the hospital directly. We try to avoid being near the windows," he said.

WATCH | Israeli forces launch raid on Gaza City hospital:
The Israeli military says its forces are carrying out an operation inside Al-Shifa, Gaza's largest hospital. Israeli officials have said there is a Hamas stronghold beneath the hospital.

Another witness inside the hospital, reached by telephone, said tanks had entered the compound at 3:00 a.m. local time. The Israeli troops dismounted and spread out in the yard, and began searching the basement and entering buildings.

"It was very dangerous looking from the glass window. The administration of the hospital told us the occupation army informed them they wanted to search us and search room by room. I am very scared," the man said, asking that his name be withheld for fear of Israeli reprisals.

"There was no shooting because there were no gunmen inside the facility. The soldiers were acting freely as were people inside the hospital, the doctors, the wounded and the displaced," the man said. He later told Reuters that gunfire could occasionally be heard and he was remaining in hiding.

A child lies on a gurney with a bandage wrapped around his head. A man hovers over him, touching his chest.
A Palestinian man consols an injured child lying on a gurney at a hospital following an Israeli strike in Khan Younis in southern Gaza on Wednesday. (Belal Khaled/AFP via Getty Images)

In a statement, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said: "Based on intelligence information and an operational necessity, IDF forces are carrying out a precise and targeted operation against Hamas in a specified area in the Shifa hospital."

Israeli army spokesman Lt.-Col. Peter Lerner told CNN the hospital and compound were for Hamas "a central hub of their operations, perhaps even the beating heart and maybe even a centre of gravity."

The U.S. said on Tuesday that its own intelligence supported Israel's conclusions. Hamas said that amounted to giving Israel a "green light" for Israel to raid the hospital, and it held U.S. President Joe Biden fully responsible for the operation along with Israel itself.


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