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Patients and staff leave Gaza's biggest hospital, and dozens are killed at a crowded refugee campBy AP
Published : Nov. 19, 2023 - 09:40
Hundreds of patients, medical staff and people displaced by Israel's war against Hamas left Gaza’s largest hospital Saturday, with one evacuee describing a panicked and chaotic scene as Israeli forces searched and face-scanned men among those leaving and took some away.
Israel’s military has been searching Gaza City's Shifa Hospital for a Hamas command center that it alleges is located under the facility — a claim Hamas and hospital staff deny . The evacuation, which Israel says was voluntary, left behind only Israeli troops and a small number of health workers to care for those too sick to move.
“We left at gunpoint,” Mahmoud Abu Auf told The Associated Press by phone after he and his family left the crowded hospital. “Tanks and snipers were everywhere inside and outside.” He said he saw Israeli troops detain three men.
Elsewhere in northern Gaza, dozens of people were killed in the urban Jabaliya refugee camp when what witnesses described as an Israeli airstrike hit a crowded UN shelter in the main combat zone. It caused massive destruction in the camp's Fakhoura school, said wounded survivors Ahmed Radwan and Yassin Sharif.
“The scenes were horrifying. Corpses of women and children were on the ground. Others were screaming for help,” Radwan said by phone. AP photos from a local hospital showed more than 20 bodies wrapped in bloodstained sheets.
The Israeli military, which had warned Jabaliya residents and others in a social media post in Arabic to leave, said only that its troops were active in the area “with the aim of hitting terrorists.” It rarely comments on individual strikes, saying only that it targets Hamas while trying to minimize civilian harm.
“Receiving horrifying images & footage of scores of people killed and injured in another UNRWA school sheltering thousands of displaced," Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner general of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, or UNRWA, said on X, formerly Twitter.
In southern Gaza, an Israeli airstrike hit a residential building on the outskirts of the town of Khan Younis, killing at least 26 Palestinians, according to a doctor at the hospital where the bodies were taken.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel's forces have begun operating in eastern Gaza City while continuing its mission in western areas. “With every passing day, there are fewer places where Hamas terrorists can operate,” he said, adding that the militants would learn that in southern Gaza “in the coming days."
His comments were the clearest indication yet that the military plans to expand its offensive to southern Gaza , where Israel had told Palestinian civilians to flee early in the war. The evacuation zone is already crammed with displaced civilians, and it was not clear where they would go if the offensive moves closer.
What led to the Shifa Hospital evacuation wasn't immediately known. Israel's military said it was asked by the hospital’s director to help those who would like to leave to do so and that it did not order an evacuation. But Medhat Abbas, a spokesman for the Health Ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza, said the military ordered the facility cleared and gave the hospital an hour to get people out.
A Shifa physician, Ahmed Mokhallalati, said on social media that about 120 patients remained, including some in intensive care and premature babies, and that he and five other doctors were staying.
Twenty-five of Gaza's hospitals aren't functioning due to a lack of fuel, damage and other problems, and the other 11 are only partially operational, according to the World Health Organization.
Israel has said hospitals in northern Gaza were a key target of its ground offensive, claiming they were used as militant command centers and weapons depots, which both Hamas and medical staff deny.
Internet and phone service were restored Saturday to Gaza, ending a telecommunications outage that had forced the United Nations to shut down critical aid deliveries.
The war was triggered by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel , in which militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted some 240 men, women and children . Fifty-two Israeli soldiers have been killed.
More than 11,500 Palestinians have been killed, according to Palestinian health authorities. Another 2,700 have been reported missing, believed buried under rubble . The count does not differentiate between civilians and combatants; Israel says it has killed thousands of militants.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that the Israeli military would have “full freedom” to operate within the territory after the war. The comments again put him in conflict with US visions for a post-war era in Gaza.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the US opposes an Israeli reoccupation of Gaza and envisions a unified Palestinian government in Gaza and the West Bank as a step toward a Palestinian state, long opposed by Netanyahu.
Gaza’s main power plant shut down early in the war, and Israel has cut off electricity. That makes fuel necessary to power generators needed to run water treatment plants, sanitation facilities, hospitals and other critical infrastructure for Gaza’s 2.3 million people.
UNRWA spokeswoman Juliette Touma said 120,000 liters (31,700 gallons) of fuel arrived, enough for two days, for the UN's use after Israel agreed to the shipment. Israel also is allowing 10,000 liters (2,642 gallons) to keep internet and telephone systems running. It wasn't immediately clear when UNRWA would resume aid that was put on hold Friday during the communications blackout.
Gaza has received only 10% of its required food supplies each day in shipments from Egypt , according to the UN, and the water system shutdown has left most of the population drinking contaminated water . Dehydration and malnutrition are growing, according to the UN’s World Food Program.
In Jerusalem, thousands of marchers — including family members and supporters of about 240 hostages held in Gaza by Hamas — arrived on the last leg of a five-day trek from Tel Aviv to plead with the government to do more to bring their loved ones home.
The Israeli military said its aircraft struck what it described as a hideout for militants in the urban refugee camp of Balata in the occupied West Bank . The Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service said five Palestinians were killed. The deaths raised to 212 the number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank since the war began. (AP-Yonhap)
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