Heavy fighting breaks out around another Gaza hospital as babies evacuated to Egypt
KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip (AP) — Heavy fighting erupted Monday around a hospital in northern Gaza where thousands of patients and displaced people have been sheltering for weeks, as Israel pressed an offensive it says is aimed at eradicating Hamas and uprooting their militant infrastructure.
A shell struck the second floor of the Indonesian Hospital, killing at least 12 people, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza and a medical worker inside the facility. There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.
The advance came a day after the World Health Organization evacuated 31 premature babies from Shifa Hospital. At least 28 were transported to Egypt on Monday. More than 250 critically ill or wounded patients remain stranded at the compound, which Israeli forces stormed days ago.
The plight of Gaza’s hospitals is at the focus of a battle of narratives over the war’s brutal toll on Palestinian civilians, thousands of whom have been killed or buried in rubble since the conflict was sparked by Hamas’ October 7 rampage into southern Israel.
Israel says Hamas uses civilians as human shields and operated a major command hub inside and beneath Shifa, while critics say Israel’s siege and relentless aerial bombardment amount to collective punishment of the territory’s 2.3 million Palestinians.
Marwan Abdallah, the medical worker at the Indonesian Hospital, said Israeli tanks were operating less than 200 metres (yards) from the hospital, and that Israeli snipers could be seen on the roofs of nearby buildings. As he spoke over the phone, the sound of gunfire could be heard in the background.
Abdallah said the hospital had received dozens of dead and wounded in airstrikes and shelling overnight.
Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra, who is now based in southern Gaza, said some 600 patients, 200 health care workers and 2,000 displaced people are sheltering there.
In a separate development that could relieve some of the pressure on Gaza’s collapsing health system, dozens of trucks entered the territory from Egypt on Monday with equipment from Jordan to set up a field hospital. Jordan’s state-run media said the hospital in the southern town of Khan Younis would be up and running within 48 hours.
CLAIMS ABOUT SHIFA
Egypt’s state-run media said babies evacuated from Gaza’s embattled Shifa hospital have arrived in Egypt after the Palestinian Red Crescent rescue service said it was transporting 28 premature babies from a hospital in southern Gaza to another across the border in Egypt. It was not immediately clear where the other three babies were.
Following the evacuation from Shifa, over 250 patients with severely infected wounds and other urgent conditions remain in Shifa, which can no longer provide most treatment after it ran out of water, medical supplies and fuel for emergency generators amid a territory-wide blackout.
Israeli forces battled Palestinian militants outside its gates for days before entering the facility in Wednesday. Four babies died in the two days before the evacuation, according to Mohamed Zaqout, the director of Gaza hospitals.
Israel’s army said it has evidence supporting its claims that Hamas maintained a sprawling command post inside and under the hospital’s 20-acre (8-hectare) complex, which includes several buildings.
On Sunday, the military released a video showing what it said was a tunnel discovered at the hospital, 55 metres (60 yards) long and about 10 metres (33 feet) below ground. It said the tunnel included a hole for gunmen to fire out of, and ended at a blast-proof door that troops have not yet opened.
Israeli forces also released security camera video showing what they said were two foreign hostages, one Thai and one Nepalese, who were captured by Hamas in the October 7 attack and taken to the hospital. Hamas said its fighters brought them in for medical care.
The army also said an investigation had determined that Israeli army Corporal Noa Marciano, another captive whose body was recovered in Gaza, had been wounded in an Israeli strike on November 9 that killed her captor, but was then killed by a Hamas militant in Shifa.