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Monday, July 22, 2024

Israel strikes near Gaza’s largest hospital

The IDF previously accused Hamas of operating a command post under the Shifa Hospital

Israeli airstrikes have destroyed roads leading to the Shifa Hospital in Gaza on Sunday, the Associated Press reports. Tens of thousands of civilians are believed to be sheltering on the grounds of the hospital.

Residents of Gaza told the news agency that the strikes destroyed most of the roads leading to the hospital, which is the main medical referral facility serving the Palestinian enclave.

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It seems they want to cut off the area,” a resident told AP, noting that Israel’s airstrikes over the past two days have been “the most violent and intense” since the war began.

The Shifa Hospital is located in Gaza City, in the northern half of the strip. The Israeli authorities have repeatedly instructed residents of the city to evacuate to the south of the enclave to be spared the airstrikes, although Israeli warplanes have bombed this supposedly safe region too, leveling homes in the cities of Rafah and Khan Younis.

Many civilians who stayed behind in Gaza City have taken shelter on the grounds of hospitals, including the Shifa facility. The Associated Press said that “tens of thousands” of people are currently camped out at the Shifa complex, which is also struggling to treat the high volume of patients inside.

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The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claimed on Friday that the Shifa Hospital is “the main headquarters for Hamas’ terrorist activity,” and that the militant group has constructed an elaborate network of tunnels and bunkers under the building. The IDF released a computer-animated video supposedly showing the layout of these tunnels, and published a video clip in which an interrogated Hamas fighter admits to the existence of the base. It is unclear, however, whether the militant was speaking under duress.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday, IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari refused to rule out bombing the hospital, declaring that “in this war, all options are on the table.”

Israel has also threatened to bomb the Al-Quds hospital in Gaza City, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said in a statement on Sunday morning. The organization said that Israeli forces ordered the “immediate evacuation” of the hospital “as it is going to be bombarded.” Palestinian news agency WAFA said shortly afterwards that hospital management refused to comply with the evacuation order.

The IDF refused to comment on either the evacuation order or the strikes near the Shifa Hospital when asked by AP.

Israel dramatically stepped up its air campaign against Gaza on Friday night, severing the enclave’s last phone and internet links with the outside world. The IDF followed the bombardment by deploying tanks and infantry to the strip, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a “second stage” in the war against Hamas.

More than 8,000 Palestinians, including 3,342 children, have been killed in Gaza since Israel’s air campaign began, according to the latest figures from the Gaza Health Ministry. Hamas’ rocket strikes and raids on Israeli territory earlier this month killed around 1,400 people, according to the IDF.