Israel Bombs Gaza’s Biggest Hospital

On Wednesday, Israeli forces made their way into the largest hospital in Gaza, conducting searches throughout its rooms and basement. This action marks the climax of a prolonged encirclement that has sparked international concern over the safety of numerous civilians trapped within.

Gaza City’s Al Shifa hospital has been the focal point of the Israeli military’s ground campaign. Israeli officials claim that underneath the hospital, Hamas militants have established a critical command center within a network of tunnels, a claim that Hamas refutes.

Global attention has centered on the hospital’s hundreds of patients, who are stuck without the necessary electricity to run vital medical machinery, as well as the thousands of displaced people who have taken refuge there. According to Gaza authorities, the siege by Israel led to the deaths of several patients, including three newborns, in recent days.

Israeli forces report that before they entered the hospital, they engaged and eliminated militants in a skirmish at the hospital’s entrance and have since provided medical supplies to those inside.

“The encounter at the hospital’s entrance involved explosive devices and enemy combatants. In this clash, we neutralized the terrorists,” an Israeli military spokesperson stated. They also confirmed, “The delivery of essentials like incubators, baby food, and medical supplies by IDF tanks to Shifa hospital has been successful. Our teams, including Arabic-speaking soldiers, are ensuring these supplies reach the needy.”

Dr. Ahmed El Mohallalati, a surgeon at the hospital, spoke to Reuters on Wednesday morning, revealing that staff had been hiding as the overnight battle raged outside. He described hearing the continuous firing from tanks, which later surrounded the hospital.

El Mohallalati recounted, “The noise was terrifying. Then we realized that tanks were encircling the hospital. One of the large tanks came through the eastern main entrance and parked in front of the emergency department.”

He mentioned that Israeli forces had informed the hospital’s management about their intention to conduct a search. At the time of his report, the troops had not yet entered the main building where he and others were sheltered.

After enduring five days of Israeli assaults, El Mohallalati expressed a sense of relief that Israeli troops were now within the hospital grounds, which, to him, signaled a resolution to the situation.

Expressing concern for his patients, particularly regarding any abrupt evacuation, he dismissed the Israeli claims of militants inside the hospital as a fabrication. He accused the Israeli forces of using various weapons and directly targeting the hospital, pointing out significant damage to one of the outpatient building’s walls.

Another hospital insider, who preferred anonymity for safety reasons, recounted that Israeli tanks entered the compound around 3:00 a.m., with soldiers dispersing to search the basement and other buildings.

“It was extremely risky to observe from the windows. We were informed by the hospital administration about the army’s intentions to conduct a thorough search. The fear was palpable,” the witness stated, adding that no gunfire was exchanged as there were no gunmen within the hospital.

The United Nations’ top humanitarian official, Martin Griffiths, expressed deep concern for the patients of Al Shifa, highlighting their precarious situation.

“While I understand Israel’s objective to locate Hamas leaders, our primary concern is the protection of Gaza’s civilians from the ongoing conflict,” Griffiths emphasized.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) described the operation as critical, explaining, “In response to intelligence and operational necessity, the IDF is executing a precise and targeted action against Hamas within a specific sector of Shifa hospital.”

The IDF had given Hamas a 12-hour ultimatum to halt military activities at the hospital, which, according to them, was not heeded.

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner of the Israeli army labeled the hospital and its surroundings as a central operation hub for Hamas, potentially even the core of their activities.

The United States corroborated Israel’s assertion about Hamas’ headquarters at Al Shifa, leading Hamas to accuse both the U.S. and Israel of war crimes for the hospital raid.

According to Hamas, the attack on the hospital, a protected facility under the Fourth Geneva Convention, by Israeli forces amounted to a barbaric assault, endangering medical staff and the numerous internally displaced people seeking refuge there. Israel, on the other hand, blames Hamas for the civilian casualties, alleging that they use civilians as human shields.

Israel initiated its operation to dismantle Hamas, the Islamist group ruling Gaza, following a series of attacks by Hamas militants in Israel on Oct. 7, which included civilian casualties and hostage-taking. Israel reports the death toll on that day to be the highest in its 75-year history, with around 1,200 people killed and approximately 240 taken hostage.

Since the beginning of their campaign, Israeli forces have imposed a siege on Gaza’s 2.3 million inhabitants, intensively bombing the densely populated area. Gaza’s health officials, whose reports are deemed credible by the United Nations

, state that over 11,000 Palestinians have been killed, with a significant portion being children, and many more are believed to be trapped under debris. Israel’s orders have resulted in the evacuation of the northern half of Gaza and the displacement of two-thirds of its population.

Israeli ground forces commenced their operation towards the end of October, progressively encircling the Shifa complex, with the reported deaths of newborn babies in recent days intensifying international concern.