Hamas has slammed the US’ claims as a “green light to the Israeli occupation to commit further brutal massacres targeting hospitals”.
Israeli occupation forces (IOF) invaded the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza overnight on Wednesday, where thousands have taken shelter and are receiving life-saving treatment, including 36 premature babies.
The dangerous development occurred following weeks of Israeli threats to target Al-Shifa, Gaza’s biggest hospital, over allegations that it is being used by Hamas fighters as a hiding place and command centre.
According to Al Jazeera, there are about 2,500 people inside the hospital including medical teams, patients and civilians seeking shelter. Israeli forces have reportedly carried out room by room raids and have asked all patients to leave and gather as they comb the facility.
There has been no indication or evidence to back Israel’s claims that Hamas is using the facility as a base, as per a Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Israel’s military radio also confirmed there are “no signs of Israeli hostages at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza after military entered facility”.
Ahmed Mokhallalati, a surgeon at Al-Shifa, told Al Jazeera that he witnessed tanks and bulldozers at the medical complex and heard heavy firing and explosions.
Gaza’s health ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudra stressed that “there are only doctors, patients and displaced people” inside the hospital with no way to evacuate them without proper measures.
“The director of the hospital clearly told [Israel] that the evacuation must take place through a safe humanitarian corridor that protects health standards and takes into consideration the state of the patients inside the hospital,” Al-Qudra told Al Jazeera.
He added:“We cannot just evacuate the hospital to the street. We would be issuing a death sentence [to the patients].”
The hospital’s administration has appealed to the international community to urgently dispatch security and international delegations on the ground to protect civilians from IOF attacks.
Dr. Munir Al-Bursh, the general director of hospitals in the Gaza Strip, separately told Al Jazeera Arabic that the IOF searched Al-Shifa’s basement in addition to the emergency and surgical buildings inside the complex.
He confirmed that Israel fired at those who tried to leave the hospital through an alleged “safe corridor” set up by occupying forces.
The doctor also confirmed that “not a single bullet was fired from inside the hospital” by any Palestinians during the IOF’s storming of the facility, debunking the presence of Hamas fighters.
A phone conversation broadcast by Al Jazeera earlier provided evidence of IOF threats to raid Al-Shifa.
In the call, the IOF official questions the minister about the presence of people in different parts of the hospital, to which the Gaza official responds by saying there are patients, some of which have been receiving treatment for years.
“There are also displaced people, a scene that you have not witnessed before. There are displaced people in every corner,” the Gaza health official said.
The IOF member then ordered that everyone stays away from the windows of the hospitals and said they were trying to find the places where Hamas has been allegedly hiding. The hospital official then relays fears by patients and civilians inside the hospital over the IOF’s plans to raid the building.
“People are scared right now, the people have been scared since the moment you [IOF] announced that you want to enter. They are afraid of being massacred and killed, because you have corpses in front of you in the courtyard,” he added.
Gaza largest hospital has been a focal centre for journalists covering the humanitarian conditions on the ground. It has also hosted press conferences by officials and doctors who have attempted to plea for global assistance. In one harrowing press conference, doctors delivered a statement while surrounded by corpses.
However, coverage from the hospital has dwindled in recent days as thousands, including journalists, have been forced into displacement towards the south of the Strip due to Israeli threats.
Hamas blames US
The overnight raid marks a dangerous development in the ongoing Israeli war on Gaza that has so far killed more than 11,300 Palestinians, including 4,600 children.
Hours prior, White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters that he had “information” that backed Israel’s claims over the presence of Hamas at hospitals in Gaza.
However, Kirby did not provide any evidence to counter the findings of independent investigations into the allegations—all which found no ground to Israel’s claims.
Hamas has slammed Washington’s claims as a “green light to the Israeli occupation to commit further brutal massacres targeting hospitals”.
“The White House and Pentagon’s adoption of the false Israeli narrative claiming that the resistance uses the al-Shifa Medical Centre for military reasons constituted a green light for [Israel] to commit more massacres against civilians, and to forcibly remove them from the north to the south to continue the occupation’s plan of displacing our people,” Hamas said in a statement.
The group also said it holds both the United States and Israel responsible for the raiding of Al-Shifa, describing it as a “barbaric crime against a medical facility protected by the Fourth Geneva Convention”.
“The Israeli occupation and everyone who colluded with it to kill children, patients and innocent civilians will be held accountable,” Hamas said.
The Palestinian resistance group called on the United Nations to establish an international committee to inspect Gaza’s hospitals.
Israel’s main targets
Hospitals in Gaza have been among Israel’s main targets since the start of its most brutal war on Gaza.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Sunday that it recorded at least 137 attacks on the health care in Gaza since the start of the war, including 521 deaths and 686 injuries. The agency recorded at least 16 deaths and 38 injuries of health workers on duty.
Currently, more than one-third of the Strip’s health facilities are no longer functioning either due to the bombardment or absence of electricity.
On October 17, the IOF carried out a massacre at the Al-Ahli Arabi Baptist Hospital, in which at least 500 Palestinians seeking treatment and shelter were killed.
Largely due to global outrage, Israel then attempted to convince the world that Hamas had been using the hospitals to launch attacks against its forces. Last week, Hagari claimed Hamas is now using Gaza’s Qatar-funded hospital and claimed to show tunnels using birdseye images.
On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) echoed the findings of previous investigations and confirmed it was unable to confirm Israel’s claims over the use of Al Shifa Hospital by Hamas.
“Despite the Israeli military’s claims on November 5, 2023, of ‘Hamas’s cynical use of hospitals,’ no evidence put forward would justify depriving hospitals and ambulances of their protected status under international humanitarian law,” HRW said.
HRW added that Israel’s “repeated, apparently unlawful attacks on medical facilities” in Gaza “should be investigated as war crimes.”
“Israel’s repeated attacks damaging hospitals and harming healthcare workers, already hard hit by an unlawful blockade, have devastated Gaza’s healthcare infrastructure,” A. Kayum Ahmed, special adviser on the right to health at HRW, said.