Israel faced growing calls to protect civilians in Gaza on Saturday as fighting with Hamas intensified around hospitals in the tiny Palestinian territory where residents seek shelter to escape heavy shelling.
In the 36th day of this conflict triggered by an unprecedented attack by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas on Israeli soil, half of the 36 hospitals in Gaza that have been constantly bombarded since October 7 are no longer functioning “at all”, according to the World Health. Health Organization (WHO).
On Saturday morning, clouds of smoke rose into the sky over Gaza City and numerous gunshots could be heard, according to AFP images.
The al-Chifa hospital, located in Gaza City, was the target of the fire according to its director. “Al-Chifa was targeted throughout the night by intense artillery fire, like other hospitals in Gaza City,” Mohammed Abou Salmiya said on Saturday. The director specified that the ambulances had not been able to pick up “dozens of dead” and “hundreds of wounded” due to “the shots and projectiles”.
According to Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, “one person was killed and many others were injured in strikes on the intensive care building of Al-Chifa hospital” on Saturday morning, the following day of an attack that left 13 dead in 2007. this same hospital complex, according to Hamas.
The Israeli military has not commented on these claims. On Friday, he claimed he would “kill” Hamas fighters “shooting from hospitals” in Gaza and said in the evening he had eliminated “around 150 terrorists”.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said Israeli snipers fired at Al-Quds Hospital on Friday.
For Israel, 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, which also took 239 hostages, according to authorities. Bombings carried out in retaliation by Israel have since left 11,078 dead in the Gaza Strip, mostly civilians, including 4,506 children, according to the Hamas Health Ministry.
“I saw dead bodies”
“Attacks against al-Chifa hospital have intensified dramatically in recent hours,” the NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF) told X (formerly Twitter) on Saturday.
Quoted by MSF, a nurse at the facility, Maher Sharif, described a “scene of terror”. “I saw dead bodies, including women and children,” he said.
Addressing the UN Security Council, the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, renewed his call for a ceasefire on Friday, stressing that the health system in the Gaza Strip was “in knees”.
“The situation on the ground is impossible to describe: hospital corridors crowded with wounded, sick and dying, overflowing closures, surgical interventions without anaesthesia,” he declared.
In an interview with the BBC, French President Emmanuel Macron “urged Israel to stop” the bombings that were killing civilians. “These babies, these women, these old people are being bombed and killed. “There is ‘no justification’ and ‘no legitimacy for this,'” the French president said.
Israeli authorities regularly say that Hamas, a “terrorist organization” for Israel, the European Union and the United States, uses the hospitals to carry out attacks or hide tunnels, which the movement denies.
The Israeli military is waging fierce battles against Hamas in the heart of Gaza City, where it says the “hub” of the movement’s infrastructure is located, entrenched in a network of tunnels. In undated images he posted, soldiers walk on the sand, weapons in hand, in a landscape of desolation.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that “responsibility for any harm done to civilians rests with Hamas,” which he says uses them as “human shields.”
“We call on the international community to put pressure on the Israeli government to stop targeting hospitals and ambulances,” the director of al-Chifa hospital in Gaza City, Mohammed Abou Salmiya, urged on Saturday.
On the diplomatic front, Iranian President Ebrahim Raïssi arrived on Saturday in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, to participate in a summit of Arab and Muslim leaders to especially demand an end to the war in Gaza. But Israel and its main ally, the United States, have so far rejected calls for a ceasefire.
Faced with the intensification of fighting in the north of the Gaza Strip, tens of thousands of Palestinians have fled in recent days, at the behest of the Israeli army, to seek refuge in the south.
Israel agreed to take daily humanitarian “pauses” to allow civilians to flee to the south of the wilder territory through a “corridor”.
This Friday they were used again by 30,000 people despite the “explosions” that caused deaths, according to the UN agency responsible for humanitarian coordination.
Shelled non-stop for more than a month and subjected to a total siege, the small Palestinian territory where 1.6 of the 2.4 million inhabitants have been displaced according to the UN is in a catastrophic humanitarian situation.
Gaza has been deprived of water, electricity, food and medicine due to the total siege imposed by Israel since 9 October.
The director of the United Nations Palestine Refugee Agency (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, called on Friday for an end to the “carnage” in the Gaza Strip and deplored the deaths of more than 100 aid workers from UNRWA since October 7.
Meanwhile, rockets continue to be fired daily from the Gaza Strip into Israel. The country is facing “multiple fronts,” Army spokesman Richard Hecht said Friday. The Israeli military has indicated it will “continue its operations to destroy the infrastructure” of Hezbollah in Lebanon, with which exchanges of fire on the border are daily.
An Israeli raid on Saturday targeted a vehicle in southern Lebanon, about 45 km north of the common border, in the first strike deep into Lebanese territory since hostilities began, Lebanese state media said.
A strike that comes ahead of an expected speech by the leader of the powerful Shiite movement, Hassan Nasrallah, scheduled for 8:00 a.m. Quebec time.
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