Israeli troops were closing in on hospitals in Gaza City on Friday, an Israeli official said, as their battles with Hamas engulfed more of the city and raised fears that vulnerable patients and civilians sheltering with nowhere to go. where they could flee could be harmed by Israeli attacks and street races. battles.
“We are aware of the sensitivity of hospitals. That’s why we are slowly approaching them,” Israeli military spokesman Richard Hecht told reporters Friday night.
He said Israeli forces generally do not fire on hospitals, but added: “If we see Hamas terrorists shooting from hospitals, we will do whatever is necessary.” He also said that Israeli troops were “getting closer” to Hamas in northern Gaza.
Tanks had surrounded two adjacent hospitals in the city, according to Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry. He said dozens of patients and displaced Gazans were trapped inside them. The situation could not be immediately confirmed, although the Israeli army has made it clear that its troops are fighting in the heart of Gaza City.
Israel has ordered the evacuation of hospitals in northern Gaza along with residents there, and has maintained that Hamas is hiding military operations inside hospitals and in tunnels beneath them, using civilians as human shields. Israel has attacked sites such as apartment buildings, mosques and markets, calling them legitimate targets used by Hamas’s military wing.
At least one projectile hit inside the Al Shifa complex, Gaza’s largest hospital, early Friday, although the source and extent of the damage were not immediately clear.
Videos verified by The New York Times showed what appeared to be a projectile flying into the hospital courtyard and hitting an area where displaced Gazans were resting overnight. Immediately the screams of the people were heard. A man was filmed lying on the ground in pain, his leg apparently shattered. Gaza’s Health Ministry said one person was killed and several others were injured. The Israeli military said the projectile was fired by Palestinian militants at Israeli troops.
Mohammad Abu Salmiya, director of Al Shifa Hospital, said in a telephone interview that the hospital’s obstetrics ward had been hit twice by fire on Friday, in addition to another area of the complex that had been converted into an emergency room. It was unclear whether he included the yard seen in the video in his account.
The Israeli military declined to comment on whether it was responsible for the attacks.
Hospitals have been caught in the crossfire of war and attacks have damaged medical centers and clinics across the coastal enclave. Many displaced Gazans flocked to hospitals and schools, hoping to be safe from the relentless and devastating bombardments.
The Israeli military has said it has struck more than 15,000 targets in the Gaza Strip since the start of its campaign against Hamas, a number unrivaled in any of its other wars in Gaza. The Israeli military has also said that hundreds of Palestinian rockets have veered off course and missed their range inside the enclave.
Al Shifa’s doctors have faced dire conditions as the war rages on, treating increasing numbers of patients even as medical supplies and fuel needed to power generators have dwindled.
“Right now, there is very little we can do for the wounded we receive, just the bare minimum,” said Dr. Abu Salmiya. “There are people who need complex operations, but we cannot provide them because we simply do not have the capacity or the medications.”
The Israeli military has repeatedly singled out Al Shifa in statements in recent weeks, saying the hospital provides cover for a Hamas military compound. Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told reporters last month that Hamas “exercises its command and control in different departments of the hospital.”
Hamas officials and Al Shifa administrators have denied the allegations. Dr. Abu Salmiya said international organizations could investigate the site and see if they could find any evidence of Hamas’ presence there.
Israel bombed a Palestinian ambulance convoy outside Al Shifa last week, killing 15 and wounding more than 60 civilians, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. The Israeli military claimed responsibility for the attack and said it had fired on ambulances transporting Palestinian fighters.
On Thursday, Israeli troops fought ground battles “near Shifa Hospital,” according to the Israeli military, storming what they said were Hamas command centers. “Terrorists located in the basements of Shifa tonight can hear the thunderous sound of our tanks and bulldozers,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Thursday night.
Inside Al Shifa Hospital itself, staff members were preparing for the worst, including a possible Israeli ground attack on the hospital, Dr. Abu Salmiya said. They have no immediate plans to fully evacuate the complex, he added.
“We will stay with our patients,” he said.