Israeli forces have raided Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital for a second day, entering the medical complex from the southern part.
“The situation at al-Shifa Hospital is indeed very dire,” said Al Jazeera’s Tareq Abu Azzoum, reporting from Khan Younis in southern Gaza on Thursday morning.
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The facility houses thousands of patients, medical staff and displaced Palestinians who witnesses said are not being allowed to leave.
“Israeli bulldozers and tanks have reportedly advanced inside the hospital complex, damaging the wall of the facility. Doctors and other medical workers were also being reportedly interrogated,” Abu Azzoum said.
Israeli tanks and troops first entered the al-Shifa compound on Wednesday morning in what they called a “targeted” operation, after encircling and bombarding the facility for days.
Israel claims al-Shifa is being used as a command centre of Hamas, the group that rules Gaza, but has not produced evidence to support these assertions.
Hamas rejects the accusations and has invited the United Nations to send investigators to verify the truth.
“It is a civilian hospital. There is no member of Hamas in al-Shifa Hospital,” Mohammed Zaqout, the director-general of hospitals in the Gaza Strip, told Al Jazeera. “There is no military activity in al-Shifa. All that happened is around the hospital but inside the hospital, all of the people are civilians.”
‘Blindfolded and interrogated’
Al Jazeera’s Hani Mahmoud, reporting from Khan Younis, said more than 24 hours after Israeli troops first raided the compound, they have “failed to produce any evidence” that links the hospital to Hamas.
“Unfortunately, this failure in confirming just resulted in causing massive destruction in the hospital and renewed attacks on its building and redeploying troops at the gates of the hospital from all sides,” he added.
The specialised surgeries building was damaged from the inside, Israeli soldiers blew up a warehouse for medicine and medical equipment inside the hospital, and witnesses reported “about 200 people being blindfolded and interrogated and taken to unknown areas”, Mahmoud reported.
“All of this is happening under heavy cover of air strikes and tank shells around al-Shifa hospital and Gaza centre.”
Mustafa Barghouti, the general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, described the Israeli invasion of al-Shifa as “the mother of all scandals” and questioned why the Israeli army has said it needs to occupy the hospitals “for days” to find evidence.
“In the process, they’ve endangered the lives of hospital patients [and] hospital staff,” Barghouti told Al Jazeera from Ramallah.
The United States has continued to push the Israeli narrative that al-Shifa is used as a “military headquarters” by Hamas, but it denied giving Israel a green light for a raid. President Joe Biden also asked Israel to be “incredibly careful” in its operation in al-Shifa.
Meanwhile, the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling for “humanitarian pauses” in Gaza on Wednesday evening, but Israel rejected it.
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, said the resolution would have “no meaning”, calling it “disconnected from reality”.
On Thursday, Israel’s army said it carried out an air strike on the house of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza, as it “often served as a meeting point for Hamas’s senior leaders to direct terror attacks against Israeli civilians” and Israeli soldiers.
Deaths were reported across the Strip overnight as Israeli forces struck other locations in north and central Gaza, including two residential buildings in Nuseirat refugee camp.
The UN has said there is only one hospital left in northern Gaza with the capacity to accept patients.
Israel’s attacks on Gaza are continuing for the 41st consecutive day, after Hamas fighters entered Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people. Since then, Israel has killed more than 11,300 Palestinians in Gaza.