Israel’s military has closed in on the front gates of Gaza’s biggest hospital, where thousands of injured and displaced people are trapped amid intensive Israeli bombardment.
Israeli forces had fully encircled the al-Shifa Hospital as of early on Saturday morning, preventing ambulances from entering or leaving the facility, where medical supplies and food are running low.
“They are attacking and destroying the front gates of the main medical complex in the Gaza Strip as patients and thousands of Palestinians are still residing inside the yard of this hospital,” Al Jazeera’s Tareq Abu Azzoum said.
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“Those people are really trapped right now by Israeli forces who are stationed in different sectors encircling the entire place. They are no longer able to move ambulances to bring victims and wounded people from the areas targeted. People are trapped and they lack food.”
Abu Azzoum said that Israeli snipers and artillery were also targeting anyone moving outside the hospital.
Al-Shifa director Muhammad Abu Salmiya described the area around the hospital as a “battlefield”, but said the hospital’s staff have pledged to stay with patients until the “last moment”.
“We will not leave, because we know if we leave the hospital, dozens of patients will die,” Abu Salmiya told Al Jazeera.
The escalating bombardment comes after an Israeli strike on the al-Shifa Hospital early on Friday killed at least 13 people and wounded several others, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-governed enclave.
Health officials said later on Friday that Israeli tanks were closing in on at least four hospitals in northern Gaza from all directions.
As fighting escalated on Friday night, Marwan Jilani, director general of the Palestine Red Crescent Society, condemned Israel for attacking hospitals at the UN Security Council in New York.
“Displaced people at the hospitals are getting shot at as we speak,” Jilani said.
“They are asking, ‘What can we do? Where can we go?’ Thousands of innocent lives are under imminent threat.”
World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus echoed his concerns, saying he was “extremely disturbed” by the situation at the al-Shifa Hospital.
“Many of the thousands sheltering at the hospital are forced to evacuate due to security risks, while many still remain there,” he posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“WHO is very concerned about the safety of patients, health workers and those sheltering in hospitals. They need immediate protection.”
We are extremely disturbed by reports of airstrikes in the vicinity of Al-Shifa hospital in #Gaza. Many health workers we were in contact with have been forced to leave the hospital in search of safety. Others report being unable to move due to grave insecurity. Many of the…
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) November 10, 2023
Israel has claimed the hospital is used by Hamas as a command centre, which both the al-Shifa staff and the armed group have denied.
The area around al-Shifa has been bombed at least five times since Thursday, according to Gaza health officials, while Israeli forces have also struck al-Nasr Medical Centre, al-Quds Hospital and al-Rantisi Hospital.
The WHO has confirmed that half of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are not functioning and two-thirds of its primary care facilities are out of commission amid the fighting.
At least 11,078 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, according to Palestinian health officials.
More than 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed by Hamas in the armed group’s surprise attacks on Israel on October 7, according to Israeli officials.