Israel says it is ready to evacuate babies from Gaza hospital as fighting rages

  • Palestinians say two babies died in intensive care
  • Netanyahu declines to comment on reports of possible hostage deal
  • Gaza residents report clashes throughout the night
  • Israeli minister calls situation ‘Gaza’s Nakba’

GAZA/JERUSALEM, Nov 12 (Reuters) – Israel’s military said it was ready to evacuate babies from Gaza’s main hospital on Sunday, where Palestinian officials said two newborns died and dozens more were in danger after fuel ran out during intense fighting in the area.

As the humanitarian situation worsened, Gaza’s border authority said the Rafah crossing into Egypt would reopen on Sunday to foreign passport holders after closing on Friday.

Hamas said it had partially or fully destroyed more than 160 Israeli military targets in Gaza, including more than 25 vehicles, in the past 48 hours. An Israeli military spokesman said Hamas had lost control of northern Gaza.

At a press conference late Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that five more Israeli soldiers had died in Gaza. The Israeli military said 46 had been killed since its ground operations there began.


Israel’s three major television news channels, without citing sources, said there was some progress toward a deal to free hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.

Netanyahu said he would not discuss details of any possible deal, which N12 News said would involve 50 to 100 women, children and the elderly being released in stages during a three- to five-day pause in the fighting.

According to the reports, Israel would release women and minor Palestinian prisoners from its prisons and consider allowing fuel into Gaza, while reserving the right to resume fighting after the deal.

“When we have something concrete to say, then we will update the families and bring it to the government,” Netanyahu said. “Until then, silence would be best.”

In Tel Aviv, thousands took part in a demonstration to support the families of the hostages.

Gaza residents said Israeli troops, which went to war to eliminate Hamas after their bloody cross-border attack on October 7, had been clashing with Hamas gunmen throughout the night in and around Gaza City, where Al Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest, is located.

Ashraf Al-Qidra, who represents the health ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza, said the hospital suspended operations after fuel ran out. He said two babies had died in an incubator as a result. He said there were 45 babies in total.

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He said Israeli shelling killed a patient in the intensive care unit and that Israeli snipers on rooftops occasionally fired into the medical complex, limiting people’s ability to move.

“We are besieged inside the Al Shifa Medical Complex and the (Israeli) occupation has targeted most of the buildings inside,” he told Reuters by telephone.

Col. Moshe Tetro, chief of coordination and liaison at COGAT, the Israeli defense ministry that handles civilian affairs in Gaza, said there had been clashes, but added: “There is no shooting at the hospital and there is no siege.”


Israel’s top military spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said the Israeli military would help evacuate babies from the hospital.

“The staff at Shifa hospital have requested that tomorrow we help the babies in the pediatric ward to get to a safer hospital. We will provide the necessary assistance,” he said.

Israel has said doctors, patients and thousands of evacuees who have sought refuge in hospitals in northern Gaza must leave so it can deal with Hamas gunmen, who it says have placed command centers under and around them.

Hamas refuses to use hospitals in this way. Medical staff say patients could die if they are moved, and Palestinian officials say Israeli fire makes it dangerous for others to leave.

Israeli Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter was asked by N12 about pictures of Gaza residents evacuating south and whether it was a goal of the war, or only temporary.

He described the situation as being “Gaza’s Nakba” – a reference to the mass expulsion of Palestinians following Israel’s foundation in 1948.

“Operationally, there is no way to wage a war the way the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) wants to wage it inside the Gaza territories while the masses are between the tanks and the soldiers,” Dichter said. “I don’t know how it will end.”


Ahmed al-Mokhallalati, a senior plastic surgeon at Al Shifa, told Reuters there had been continuous bombardment for more than 24 hours. He said most hospital staff and people housed there had left, but 500 patients remained.

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“It’s totally a war zone. It’s a completely terrifying atmosphere here in the hospital,” he said.

The military wing of Hamas-allied Islamic Jihad, the Al-Quds Brigades, said it was “engaged in violent clashes near Al Shifa Medical Complex, Al Nasr neighborhood and Al Shati camp in Gaza.”

Al Nasr is home to several major hospitals.

Israel earlier said it had killed what it called a Hamas “terrorist” who it said had prevented the evacuation of another hospital in the north, which Palestinian officials have said is out of order and surrounded by tanks.

It said Ahmed Siam was killed along with other militants while hiding in the Al Buraq school. Palestinian officials told Reuters on Friday that at least 25 Palestinians had been killed in an Israeli attack on the school, which was full of evacuees.

Israel said rockets were still being fired from Gaza into southern Israel, where it has said about 1,200 people were killed and more than 200 taken hostage by Hamas last month.

Palestinian officials said Friday that 11,078 Gazans had been killed in air and artillery strikes since Oct. 7, about 40% of them children.

Israel said it had increased the number of locations where it said it would stop firing for hours at a time to allow Gaza residents to move south, and a military spokesman said the past three days had seen the evacuation of at least 150,000 people.

In London, at least 300,000 pro-Palestinian protesters marched and police arrested over 120 people as they tried to stop far-right counter-demonstrators in the ambush. Over 20,000 people attended a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Brussels.

The meeting of Saudi Arabia, Muslim and Arab countries called for an immediate end to military operations in Gaza and rejected Israel’s justification of self-defense.

(This story has been re-archived to correct a typo in ‘newborn’ in section 1)

Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, and Maytaan Lubell, Maytaal Angel and Emily Rose Jerusalem; additional reporting by Crispian Balmer, Ari Rabinovitch, Adam Makary, Omar Abdel-Razek and other Reuters agencies; Author: David Brunnstrom; Editing by Daniel Wallis

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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A senior correspondent with nearly 25 years of experience covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including several wars and the signing of the first historic peace agreement between the two sides.

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