The ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian enclave of Gaza has entered a new phase, with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launching an operation against al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza, the Palestinian enclave’s largest medical complex. The IDF contends that the hospital has been used for military purposes by Hamas, a claim that the armed group has rejected. On Tuesday, the IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said that the Israeli Army considers Gaza hospitals to be legitimate military targets, and reiterated the claims that Palestinian forces maintain a command center in underground tunnels below al-Shifa.
The IDF announced the raid early Wednesday morning, stating that it would carry out a “precise and targeted operation” against Hamas fighters within a “specified area in the Shifa Hospital,” also accusing the group of using “human shields” there. The military has pointed out that it had warned numerous times previously about the hospital’s military use by Hamas, jeopardizing its protected status under international law.
However, the claims made by IDF have been disputed by Hamas, who later denounced the operation, condemning it as “storming of the Shifa Medical Complex”. They vowed to hold both Israel and the US fully responsible for the repercussions, accusing US officials of peddling a “false narrative” that would enable “more massacres against civilians”. This comes after the White House backed Israeli claims that Hamas was using the hospital for military purposes.
The US officials have backed Israel’s allegations, with National Security Council spokesman John Kirby stating that US intelligence had confirmed that “Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad members operate a command and control [center] from al-Shifa,” claiming the groups had “stored weapons there.” He noted that Washington does not support Israeli airstrikes on the complex, stating that civilians at the site “deserve not to be caught in the crossfire.”
On the other hand, Gaza’s Health Ministry said it was informed in advance about the IDF raid and that Israeli forces had warned those inside the hospital “not to be near the windows”. The director of al-Shifa Hospital, Mohammad Abu Salmiya, described dire conditions at the facility in comments to AFP on Tuesday night, saying staff had been forced to bury at least 179 dead bodies in a “mass grave”. He further stated that there are bodies littered in the hospital complex, and there is no longer electricity at the morgues, and that seven babies and 29 intensive care patients were among those buried in the hospital courtyard.
The ongoing violence between Israel and Gaza has taken a heavy toll, with over 11,000 deaths reported in weeks of artillery and airstrikes in Gaza, according to Palestinian health officials. They added that around 40% of the fatalities are children. The Israel-Palestine conflict continues to be a matter of international concern as the casualties mount and efforts to alleviate tensions have not yet succeeded.
The situation in Gaza calls for an urgent and comprehensive approach to resolve the conflict and prevent further bloodshed. As the world watches the ongoing humanitarian crisis unfold, it remains to be seen how the international community will respond to the escalating violence and loss of life in the region.