Israel faces mounting pressure to ensure the safety of civilians in Gaza as clashes close in on a hospital.

Busy Bee
Busy Bee November 11, 2023
Updated 2023/11/11 at 11:24 PM

Growing calls to protect civilians in Gaza have emerged as the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas encircles the territory’s main hospital. The situation near Al-Shifa, Gaza’s largest hospital, has been described as “catastrophic” by an aid agency.

Throughout the night, the sounds of explosions reverberated as heavy fighting between Hamas and Israeli forces neared Al-Shifa. The Hamas government and the hospital’s director claim that a strike on the vital healthcare facility on Friday resulted in the deaths of 13 people, holding Israel responsible. This claim could not be independently verified.

“We call on all international and Arab parties to immediately intervene to stop the targeting of hospitals in Gaza,” said Ahsraf Al-Qudra, a spokesperson for the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

Doctors Without Borders expressed “extreme concern” for the safety of patients and medical staff at Al-Shifa hospital, stating that the attacks had significantly intensified over the past few hours.

“Our staff at the hospital have reported a catastrophic situation inside just a few hours ago.”

Maher Sharif, a nurse en route to Al-Shifa hospital when it was struck on Friday, described how people threw themselves to the ground. She reported seeing dead bodies, including women and children, and called the scene “horrific.”

Gaza resident Hanane shared with AFP his distress, explaining that his daughter was being treated at Al-Shifa after being injured while queuing outside a bakery. Each explosion makes her tremble, causing immense anxiety, he revealed.

Seeking refuge, many have gathered within the hospital premises. AFP reporters observed people in beds along a corridor. Some prepared meals using gas cannisters while seated on the floor.

The UN’s humanitarian agency reported that twenty of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are no longer operational.

Israel has refuted claims of targeting hospitals, asserting that Hamas has been using medical facilities as hideouts and command centers, an accusation that the Palestinian militant group denies.

The Israeli military has warned of targeting Hamas militants if they see them firing from hospitals, emphasized military spokesperson Richard Hecht.

French President Emmanuel Macron acknowledged Israel’s right to self-defense but also expressed concerns over the casualties among civilians due to Israel’s airstrikes and its expanded ground operations.

Macron, speaking to the BBC, highlighted the tragic toll on civilians, urging Israel to halt its actions due to the loss of innocent lives.

As per Gaza’s health ministry, the ongoing conflict has resulted in the deaths of over 11,000 people, predominantly civilians, many of whom are children. These figures, however, cannot be independently verified.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also expressed unease about the high number of civilian casualties. During his visit to New Delhi, he urged the need for greater efforts to protect civilians and ensure humanitarian aid reaches them.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to Macron’s remarks by attributing the civilian deaths to Hamas, asserting that the responsibility lies with them, not Israel.

Gaza resident Hanane told AFP his daughter was being treated at Al-Shifa after being wounded as she queued outside a bakery. She “starts shaking” with each explosion, he said. Many people have taken refuge in the hospital grounds. AFP journalists saw people in beds lined up along a corridor. Some cooked meals with gas cannister stoves and ate while sitting on the floor.

According to the UN’s humanitarian agency, 20 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are “no longer functioning.”

Israel has denied targeting hospitals and its army has accused Hamas of using the medical facilities as command centers and hideouts, a charge the Palestinian militant group denies. Israeli forces would “kill” Hamas militants if they saw them “firing from hospitals,” however, military spokesman Richard Hecht said.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Israel had the right to defend itself after last month’s Hamas attacks, but he urged Israel to stop the civilian casualties. Hamas fighters killed 1,200 people and took 239 hostages after smashing through the border on October 7, according to updated Israeli figures.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed concern over the civilian toll and called for more to be done to protect civilians and provide humanitarian assistance.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated that Israel was trying to avoid harming civilians but accused Hamas of using them as “human shields.”

Israel’s defense force said its 401st Brigade had killed about 150 “terrorists” and gained control over Hamas strongholds in northern Gaza. Palestinians reported strikes and sniper fire at hospitals and a school in Gaza on Friday, and the head of the World Health Organization described the Gazan health system as “on its knees.”

In Israel, two women were wounded in rocket attacks in Tel Aviv. Tens of thousands of people have fled to the south of Gaza in recent days, nearly two-thirds of Gaza’s population have been internally displaced since October 7.

The fate of the hostages abducted on October 7 complicates Israel’s military push. Four hostages have been freed by Hamas, and another was rescued in an Israeli operation.

Regional tensions are soaring as the Israel-Hamas conflict sparks cross-border clashes between the Israeli army and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian expressed the view that the escalating Israel-Hamas conflict’s expansion has become “inevitable.”

At an emergency gathering of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Saudi Arabia is convening Arab leaders and Iran’s president for a summit this weekend to address the escalating crisis.

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