November 20, 2023 - 10:39 am
DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — Israeli forces pressed their offensive against Hamas in northern Gaza on Monday, battling terrorists around a hospital.
A medical worker inside the facility and the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said a shell struck the second floor of the Indonesian Hospital, killing 12 people. Both blamed Israel, which denied firing a shell at the hospital, saying its troops returned fire on terrorists who had fired on them from inside the 3.5-acre compound.
Gaza’s hospitals play a prominent role in the battle of narratives over the war, which was sparked by Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist incursion into southern Israel.
In the wake of the assault, Israeli leaders vowed to eradicate Hamas, destroy its ability to rule Gaza and uproot its terrorist infrastructure.
About 1,200 Israelis have been killed, mainly civilians during the Oct. 7 terrorist attack, in which Hamas dragged some 240 captives back into Gaza. The military says 66 Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza ground operations.
Israel says Hamas uses civilians as human shields and that it operated a major command hub inside and beneath Shifa Hospital.
The United States says its own intelligence indicates terrorists have used Shifa and other hospitals — and tunnels beneath them — to support military operations and hold hostages.
Marwan Abdallah, the medical worker at the Indonesian Hospital, said Israeli tanks were operating less than 200 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.
In a separate development, dozens of trucks entered 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.
Shifa evidence shown
Babies evacuated from Shifa hospital arrived in Egypt, according to the country’s state-run media, after the Palestinian Red Crescent rescue service said it was transporting 28 premature babies across the border. Following that evacuation, over 250 patients remained in Shifa.
Israeli forces battled Palestinian terrorists outside its gates for days before entering the facility on Wednesday.
Israel’s army said it has evidence that Hamas maintained a sprawling command post inside and under the hospital’s 20-acre complex, which includes several buildings.
On Sunday, the military released a video showing what it said was a tunnel discovered at the hospital, 60 yards long and about 33 feet below ground. It said the tunnel ended at a blast-proof door with a hole in it for gunmen to fire out of. Troops have not opened the door yet, it said.
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 Oct. 7 terrorist attack and taken to the hospital.
The army also said an investigation had determined that Israeli army Cpl. Noa Marciano, another captive whose body was recovered in Gaza, had been wounded in an Israeli strike on Nov. 9 that killed her captor, but was then killed by a Hamas terrorist in Shifa.
The military has previously released images of several guns it said were found inside an MRI lab and said that the bodies of two hostages were found near the complex.
Three in four displaced
Israel has repeatedly ordered Palestinians to leave northern Gaza and seek refuge in the south, which has also been under aerial bombardment since the start of the war.
Some 1.7 million people, nearly three quarters of Gaza’s population, have been displaced.
Strikes in the Nuseirat and Bureij refugee camps Monday killed at least 40 people, according to hospital officials, and residents said dozens more were buried in the rubble.
More than 12,700 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, the Palestinian Health Ministry in the West Bank said Monday.
For the past 10 days, officials have released numbers more sporadically saying they are struggling to keep up the count amid communications lapses. The West Bank ministry coordinates with officials in the Health Ministry of Hamas-run Gaza.
Officials there say another 4,000 are missing and believed buried in rubble. Their count of the dead and missing does not differentiate between civilians and combatants. Israel says it has killed thousands of terrorists.
Violence has also surged in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where attacks by Jewish settlers are on the rise and where more than 200 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the war.
Hamas has released four hostages, Israel has rescued one, and the bodies of two were found near Shifa.
Israel, the United States and Qatar, which mediates with Hamas, have been negotiating a hostage release for weeks. Israel’s three-member war Cabinet is to meet with representatives of the hostages’ families on Monday evening.
Magdy and Jeffery reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Najib Jobain in Khan Younis, Tia Goldenberg in Tel Aviv, Israel and Melanie Lidman in Jerusalem contributed.