Patients, staff leave Gaza’s largest hospital, dozens killed at crowded refugee camp

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Hundreds of patients, medical staff and people displaced by Israel’s war against Hamas left Gaza’s largest hospital Saturday.

Israel’s military has been searching Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital for a Hamas command center that it alleges is located under the facility, a claim Hamas and hospital staff deny. The evacuation, which Israel says was voluntary, left behind only Israeli troops and a small number of health workers to care for those too sick to move.

Elsewhere in northern Gaza, dozens of people were killed in the urban Jabaliya refugee camp when what witnesses described as an Israeli airstrike hit a crowded U.N. shelter in the main combat zone. It caused massive destruction in the camp’s Fakhoura school, said wounded survivors Ahmed Radwan and Yassin Sharif.

“The scenes were horrifying. Corpses of women and children were on the ground. Others were screaming for help,” Radwan said by phone. AP photos from a local hospital showed more than 20 bodies wrapped in bloodstained sheets.

The Israeli military, which had warned Jabaliya residents and others in a social media post in Arabic to leave, said only that its troops were active in the area “with the aim of hitting terrorists.” It rarely comments on individual strikes, saying only that it targets Hamas while trying to minimize civilian harm.

“Receiving horrifying images & footage of scores of people killed and injured in another UNRWA school sheltering thousands of displaced,” Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner general of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, or UNRWA, said on X, formerly Twitter.

In southern Gaza, an Israeli airstrike hit a residential building on the outskirts of the town of Khan Younis, killing at least 26 Palestinians, according to a doctor at the hospital where the bodies were taken.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel’s forces have begun operating in eastern Gaza City while continuing its mission in western areas. “With every passing day, there are fewer places where Hamas terrorists can operate,” he said, adding that the militants would learn that in southern Gaza “in the coming days.”

His comments were the clearest indication yet that the military plans to expand its offensive to southern Gaza, where Israel had told Palestinian civilians to flee early in the war. The evacuation zone is already crammed with displaced civilians, and it was not clear where they would go if the offensive moves closer.

What led to the Shifa Hospital evacuation wasn’t immediately known. Israel’s military said it was asked by the hospital’s director to help those who would like to leave to do so and that it did not order an evacuation. But Medhat Abbas, a spokesman for the Health Ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza, said the military ordered the facility cleared and gave the hospital an hour to get people out.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that the Israeli military would have “full freedom” to operate within the territory after the war. The comments again put him in conflict with U.S. visions for a post-war era in Gaza.

In an op-ed published Saturday in The Washington Post, U.S President Joe Biden said Gaza and the West Bank should be reunited and governed under a “revitalized Palestinian Authority” while world leaders work toward a peaceful two-state solution. Netanyahu has long opposed a Palestinian state.

The U.S. is providing weapons and intelligence support to Israel in its offensive to root out Hamas.

 

 

 

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