Picture: Mohammed Saber / EPA-EFE / Taken on October 17, 2023 – A doctor at the scene of Al Ahli hospital after an air strike in Gaza City, October 17. According to Palestinian officials hundreds of people have been killed in an Israeli strike on a hospital in Gaza on October 17. Earlier in the day, the Palestinian Health Ministry announced that more than 3,000 Palestinians have been killed and 12,500 others injured since Israel launched retaliatory air strikes in Gaza. More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed according to Israel Defence Forces after Hamas militants launched an attack against Israel from the Gaza Strip on October 7.
By AFP and Reuters
Hundreds of people fled on foot yesterday after Israel’s army ordered the evacuation of Gaza’s main hospital where more than 2,000 patients, medics and internally displaced people were trapped by the war between Israel and Hamas.
An AFP journalist witnessed the movement, on a road leading south, but health officials in the Hamas-ruled territory said 450 patients who were unable to be moved remained at Al-Shifa Hospital. The facility has become the focus of the war that is entering its seventh week after Hamas’s October 7 attacks on southern Israel.
Israel has been pressing military operations inside the hospital
searching for the Hamas operations centre it says lies under the sprawling complex – a charge Hamas denies.
Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas in response to the terror attacks which Israeli officials said killed about 1 200 people, most of them civilians, and saw about 240 people taken hostage.
The Israeli army’s air and ground campaign has since killed nearly 12 000 people, including 5 000 children, according to the Hamas government which has ruled Gaza since 2007.
In Gaza City yesterday morning, Israeli troops ordered the evacuation of Al-Shifa Hospital “in the next hour” over loudspeakers, an AFP journalist at the scene reported.
They called the hospital’s director, Mohammed Abu Salmiya, to instruct him to ensure “the evacuation of patients, wounded, the displaced and medical staff, and that they should move on foot towards the seafront”, he told AFP.
Israel has come under mounting pressure to back up its allegations that Hamas is using hospitals as command centres. Al-Shifa Hospital has also rejected the allegation.
The UN estimated 2 300 patients, staff and displaced Palestinians were sheltering at Al-Shifa before Israeli troops entered the facility on Wednesday.
Israel has told Palestinians to move from the north of Gaza for their safety, but deadly air strikes continue to hit central and southern areas of the narrow coastal territory.
“They said the south was safer, so we moved,” Azhar al-Rifi told AFP. But her family was caught in another strike that killed seven relatives, including her five-year-old nephew.
In Gaza, more than 1.5 million people have been internally displaced, and Israel’s blockade has left civilians facing the “immediate possibility of starvation”, according to World Food Programme head Cindy McCain.
Israel has imposed a siege on Gaza, allowing just a trickle of aid in from Egypt but barring most shipments of fuel over concerns Hamas could divert supplies for military purposes.
A first consignment of fuel entered Gaza after Israel’s war cabinet bowed to pressure from its ally the United States and agreed to allow two diesel tankers a day into the Palestinian territory.
A two-day blackout caused by fuel shortages ended after a first delivery arrived from Egypt late on Friday, but UN officials continued to plead for a ceasefire, warning no part of Gaza is safe.
Under the deal, 140,000 litres of fuel would be allowed in every 48 hours, of which 20,000 litres will be earmarked for generators to restore the phone network, the US official said.
A communications blackout hampered aid deliveries, UNRWA said. Humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths told the UN General Assembly that fuel supplies to the agency so far were “a fraction of what is needed to meet the minimum of our humanitarian responsibilities”.
The Hamas health ministry said 24 patients had died in 48 hours due to the lack of fuel for generators.
In the latest bloodshed, a strike on a residential building in the southern city of Hamad killed 26 people, the director of the Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis said.
A Hamas health official said more than 80 people were killed yesterday in twin strikes on a northern Gaza refugee camp, including a UN school used as a shelter for people displaced by the war.
The Israeli military has yet to respond to a request for comment.
Israel has come under scrutiny for targeting hospitals in northern Gaza, but it claimed the facilities were being used by Hamas. More than half of Gaza’s hospitals are no longer functional due to combat, damage or shortages.
The military says it has found rifles, ammunition, explosives and the entrance to a tunnel shaft at the hospital complex, claims that cannot be independently verified.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said, without providing details, that there were “strong indications” hostages may have been held at the Shifa facility.
Israel has not recovered hostages but said it found the bodies of two kidnapped women not far away.
Yesterday, the families of the hostages and thousands of their supporters arrived in Jerusalem at the end of a five-day march to confront the government over the plight of those taken captive by Hamas.
The estimated 20,000 marchers, including well-wishers who joined the procession along the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, want to put pressure on Israel’s government “to do everything they can to bring the hostages back”, said Noam Alon, 25, clutching a photograph of his abducted girlfriend, Inbar.
“We cannot wait any longer, so we are demand(ing) them to do that now, to pay any price to bring the hostages back.”
About 240 Israelis – ranging from babies to grandparents – are believed to be in the Gaza Strip after being taken hostage in Hamas’s October 7 cross-border raid on southern Israeli villages and army bases.
Many Israelis blame their government for being blindsided by the Hamas assault.
Among those who marched to Jerusalem was centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid, who has been mostly supportive of the war but has demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. – AFP and Reuters