New Delhi: The Israeli military entered Gaza’s largest hospital early Wednesday, conducting what it called a “precise and targeted operation against Hamas in a specified area” of the facility, which has been the site of a standoff with the militant group.
The army surrounded the facility as part of its ground offensive against Hamas. Israeli authorities claim the militants conceal military operations in the facility. But with hundreds of patients and medical personnel inside, Israeli authorities have refrained from entering.
In recent weeks, Israeli defense forces have “publicly warned time and again that Hamas’ continued military use of the Shifa Hospital jeopardizes its protected status under international law,” the military said.
“Yesterday, the IDF conveyed to the relevant authorities in Gaza once again that all military activities within the hospital must cease within 12 hours. Unfortunately, it did not.”
Hamas has denied the Israeli accusations that it uses the hospital for cover.
Military officials gave no further details but said they were taking steps to avoid harm to civilians.
The operation unfolded after the military seized broader control of northern Gaza on Tuesday, including capturing the territory’s legislature building and its police headquarters, in gains that carried high symbolic value in the country’s quest to crush the ruling Hamas militant group.
Meanwhile, Israeli defense officials said they have agreed to allow fuel shipments into the Gaza Strip for humanitarian operations. It was the first time that Israel has allowed fuel into the besieged territory since the Hamas militant group’s bloody cross-border invasion on Oct. 7.
Inside some of the captured buildings, soldiers held up the Israeli flag and military flags in celebration. In a nationally televised news conference, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Hamas had “lost control” of northern Gaza and that Israel made significant gains in Gaza City.
But asked about the time frame for the war, Gallant said: “We’re talking about long months, not a day or two.”
One Israeli commander in Gaza, identified only as Lt. Col. Gilad, said in a video that his forces near Shifa Hospital had seized government buildings, schools and residential buildings where they found weapons and eliminated fighters.
The army said it had captured the legislature, the Hamas police headquarters and a compound housing Hamas’ military intelligence headquarters. The buildings are powerful symbols, but their strategic value was unclear. Hamas fighters are believed to be positioned in underground bunkers.
For days, the Israeli army has encircled Shifa Hospital, the facility it says Hamas hides in, and beneath, to use civilians as shields for its main command base. Hospital staff and Hamas deny the claim.
Hundreds of patients, staff and displaced people were trapped inside, with supplies dwindling and no electricity to run incubators and other lifesaving equipment. After days without refrigeration, morgue staff on Tuesday dug a mass grave in the yard for more than 120 bodies, officials said.
Elsewhere, the Palestinian Red Crescent said Tuesday it had evacuated patients, doctors and displaced families from another Gaza City hospital, Al-Quds.
Israel has vowed to end Hamas rule in Gaza after the militants’ Oct. 7 attack into Israel in which they killed some 1,200 people and took roughly 240 hostages. The Israeli government has acknowledged it doesn’t know what it will do with the territory after Hamas’ defeat. (AP)