Israeli soldiers raided Shifa Hospital in Gaza early Wednesday morning looking for Hamas militias after giving Health Ministry officials a few minutes warning.
“Based on intelligence information and an operational necessity, IDF forces are carrying out a precise and targeted operation against Hamas in a specified area in the Shifa hospital,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. It urged all Hamas fighters to surrender.
The IDF said its forces consisted of “medical teams and Arabic speakers, who have undergone specified training to prepare for this complex and sensitive environment, with the intent that no harm is caused to the civilians.”
The director-general of the Gaza Health Ministry, Dr. Munir al-Bursh, told Al Jazeera television that Israeli forces had raided the western side of the medical complex.
Earlier, the U.S. backed up Israel’s claims that Hamas is using hospitals as cover for its fighters. Israel says Shifa has a command center underneath it, something Hamas again denied.
Hamas says about 650 patients and 5,000-7,000 Palestinian civilians have taken shelter on the hospital grounds.
UPDATE: #Hamas rejects US accusations it is using hospitals in Gaza as cover
“We strongly condemn and reject the claims” per a statement on its Telegram channel
— Jeff Seldin (@jseldin) November 14, 2023
Earlier Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden said hospitals in Gaza “must be protected” as Israeli forces continue to target health care facilities in the Palestinian enclave over claims Hamas is using them as cover to hide its command centers and weaponry.
The president was responding to reports of the worsening crisis at Shifa hospital, Gaza City’s main medical center, which has been surrounded and under siege by Israeli forces for several days.
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters aboard Air Force One that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad members operate a command-and-control node from Shifa and use tunnels underneath to support their military operations and hold hostages.
He said the militants have stored weapons there and are prepared to respond to an Israeli military operation against that facility.
“Now to be clear, we’re not supporting striking a hospital from the air, and we do not want to see a firefight in the hospital where innocent people, helpless people, sick people are simply trying to get the medical care that they deserve not to be caught in a crossfire,” said Kirby on Tuesday, adding that the actions of Hamas “do not lessen Israel’s responsibilities to protect civilians in Gaza.”
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement Tuesday that he is “deeply disturbed by the horrible situation and dramatic loss of life in several hospitals in Gaza.”
“In the name of humanity, the secretary-general calls for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire,” the spokesman said.