Israeli army attacks hospitals and a school in northern Gaza

Hamas accuses Israel of killing 13 people in the capital’s largest health center, and an airstrike on a school sheltering civilians left at least 25 dead, according to health sources in the enclave. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that ‘too many Palestinians have been killed’

Several people try to identify the victims of the attack on Al-Shifa hospital, on Nov. 10, 2023.KHODER AL-ZAANOUN (AFP)
Juan Carlos Sanz

Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza already exceeded the duration of the one it waged in 2006 against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. But the consequences of the current conflict are much more devastating: more than 11,000 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the health authorities in the Palestinian enclave, which Hamas has controlled for 17 years. This Friday, Israeli tanks surrounded hospitals in northern Gaza and opened fire against the Al-Shifa medical complex, the territory’s biggest health center and under which — in a web of underground tunnels — the armed wing of Hamas houses its military command center, according to Israel. Hamas claims that at least 13 people were killed in the hospital attack, a figure that the World Health Organization (WHO) has not been able to confirm. Israel flatly denies this, instead assuring that it is protecting the civilian population and that its operations are directed against militiamen hiding in residential areas. Two other hospitals were also hit by airstrikes on Friday, and a health official said that at least 25 people were killed in a strike on a school in the Strip. In this climate of escalating civilian casualties, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned — for the first time since the conflict began — that “far too many Palestinians have been killed.”

As Israeli forces advance into the heart of Gaza’s capital, the greater the risk of their units taking military action that could constitute war crimes. In Al-Quds Hospital, also in the Gazan capital, at least one person was killed in an attack by Israeli forces, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent, which reported that heavy clashes were taking place nearby. Additionally, the Indonesian Hospital was severely damaged and the Rantisi pediatric oncology center caught fire, according to reports from the Gaza Ministry of Health, which on Friday raised the death toll in the war to 11,078 (260 more than the previous day), of whom more than 4,500 are children and adolescents.

Palestinians leave from the northern part of the Gaza to flee the central and southern parts of the Gaza Strip on November 10, 2023
Palestinians leave from the northern part of the Gaza to flee the central and southern parts of the Gaza Strip on November 10, 2023.Belal Khaled (Anadolu/Getty Images)

In Israel, the number of soldiers killed since the war began stands at 39, in addition to the approximately 1,200 soldiers and civilians — the Israeli Foreign Ministry has lowered the figure from 1,400 — who lost their lives during the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

“Israel is now launching a war on Gaza City hospitals,” Mohammad Abu Selmeyah, director of Al-Shifa hospital, told Reuters. The same health official also said that at least 25 people were killed Friday in an Israeli missile and artillery attack on the Al-Buraq school in Gaza City, where hundreds of civilians who have lost their homes during the war or who hope to find a place that is safe from bombs, protected by international law, are sheltering. Those injured in the attack have been evacuated to Al-Shifa hospital.

Merkava IV battle tanks and armored personnel carrier units surrounded the main hospitals with the aim of destroying the command posts of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigadess, Hamas’ military wing, which are allegedly hiding under the health facilities — a claim Hamas denies. Gazan Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qidra claims that the Al-Shifa health complex has already been attacked five times.

Spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Lt. Col. Richard Hecht reaffirmed that Israeli troops do not open fire on hospitals, although they do what they “need to do” if they see “Hamas terrorists firing from hospitals.” He did, however, confirm that Israeli forces were operating in the vicinity of the medical complex that was hit. An Israeli army spokesperson said Friday that, in 35 days of military operations, the IDF have attacked more than 15,000 “terrorist targets” in the Gaza Strip.

Pressure from Washington

In a new round of pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday criticized Israel for the high number of Palestinian civilian casualties its attacks in Gaza are causing. “Far too many Palestinians have been killed; far too many have suffered these past weeks,” Blinken said in New Delhi, according to Reuters.

Blinken acknowledged in the Indian capital, on his ninth consecutive day of international touring, that the newly implemented humanitarian pauses have not gone far enough. He said that the U.S. is discussing other steps with Israel, adding that “there is more that can and should be done to minimize harm to Palestinian civilians.” On Thursday, the White House announced that Israel had agreed to daily four-hour military pauses in northern Gaza. However, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant emphasized that only “tactical, localized” pauses would be adopted and without interfering with Israel’s offensive.

Meanwhile, trucks carrying supplies for the civilian population continue to enter the Gaza Strip in dribs and drabs, compared to the 500 a day that usually entered the enclave before October 7. Moreover, evacuations of the wounded and departures of foreigners through the Rafah crossing are increasingly rare.

Despite the announcement of the humanitarian pauses, the reality on the ground remains unclear. While it is true that, on Friday morning, thousands of Gazans moved southward along the Salah al-Din Road, which crosses the Strip from end to end, by midday Israeli tanks and aircraft were launching attacks near hospitals in the enclave.

Israel insists that it will not accept any ceasefire that does not involve the release of the 239 hostages held captive in Gaza since October 7. For the past five days, civilians from northern Gaza have been moving south — at Israel’s orders — to escape the constant bombardment in the north. More than 100,000 have fled south in the last two days, according to Israeli military sources. However, evacuee caravans are often involved in armed incidents. Just this Friday, three people were killed on the route.

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