The Israeli army on Wednesday raided Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital, which Tel Aviv alleges houses a Hamas command center, as calls mounted for an immediate ceasefire to facilitate humanitarian aid for Palestinian civilians.
Thousands of Palestinian civilians have been sheltering in Gaza’s biggest hospital since Israel commenced its bombardment of the embattled region on Oct. 7, when Hamas fighters infiltrated into southern Israel, killing 1,200 Israelis. In recent days, personnel had warned that the medical complex had completely run out of fuel, endangering babies requiring incubators and hampering surgeries of victims of the siege. On Tuesday, the hospital director told media the facility had been forced to bury nearly 200 bodies, including seven babies, in a mass grave because there was no electricity to operate the morgue and the decomposition was endangering the health of surviving patients.
On Wednesday, the Israeli military announced it was conducting a raid targeting Hamas at Al-Shifa. Gaza Health Ministry Director-General Dr. Munir al-Bursh confirmed the development to Al Jazeera, saying Israeli forces had raided the western side of the medical complex. “There are big explosions and dust entered the areas where we are. We believe an explosion occurred inside the hospital,” he said, adding that the soldiers had targeted some people trying to leave the hospital.
“Not a single bullet was fired from inside the hospital during the occupation forces’ storming of the complex,” he added.
Separately, Dr. Ahmed El Mokhallalati told the Reuters news agency that the situation inside the hospital had worsened after the raid. He said the Israeli military has forced medical staff to stay away from windows for their safety. “Bombardment. Shooting around the hospital and within the hospital. Its really horrible you can feel that it’s very near to the hospital. And then we realized the tanks are moving around the hospital,” he said, adding the emergency department’s entrance was blocked.
“All kinds of weapons were used around the hospital. They targeted the hospital directly. We try to avoid being near the windows,” he said.
Speaking with Al Jazeera, a local journalist said people were being “brutally interrogated” and “humiliated” by Israeli forces. “Since last night, it’s been a nightmare that cannot be imagined,” said Jihad Abu Shanab, adding that the soldiers had targeted all floors, generators and the communications unit, cutting off all access to the outside world. “Eyewitnesses in the Al-Shifa compound have said that there is no resistance at all whatsoever and the hospital only contains doctors and patients and displaced people,” he maintained.
Israeli forces have said they were raiding the complex because Hamas has a command center underneath it and uses connected tunnels to hold hostages. They have further alleged that “weapons” were found inside the Al-Shifa compound. Hamas has denied all of Israel’s allegations.
Amidst the assault on the hospital, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres has reiterated calls for an immediate ceasefire. “I am deeply disturbed by the horrible situation and dramatic loss of life in several hospitals in Gaza,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “In the name of humanity, I call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire,” he added. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau echoed these remarks, calling on Israel to stop killing babies.
“I urge the government of Israel to exercise maximum restraint,” he told a press conference. “The world is watching, on TV, on social media—we’re hearing the testimonies of doctors, family members, survivors, kids who have lost their parents,” he said. “The world is witnessing this killing of women, of children, of babies. This has to stop,” he added.
Addressing the Margalla Dialogue 2023 in Islamabad, interim Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar also condemned the ongoing siege, noting the “double standards” of states when it comes to conflicts in Europe—such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—against those in the Middle East. “There is probably no parallel in the medieval world for such barbaric and horrific acts being committed by the state of Israel against the unarmed citizenry of Palestine,” he lamented.
“How many Palestinian children have to be killed to appease and address the Israeli anger” over the Oct. 7 Hamas assault, he questioned. “Injured are being killed, children are being eliminated. It’s not [about] condemning one part or the other part. It is about those prime human values,” he said. “The killing of any children is condemnable—be it of any faith or origin—so how many Palestinian children have to be killed to appease and address that Israeli anger? One? Five? 10? 500? 1,000? 4,700? Can they give us a number so we can satisfy those parents,” he said, describing the situation as “utterly unacceptable.”