Thousands of people are trapped in Gaza’s main hospital, which Israel claims is a Hamas command center.
Israel’s military has closed in on the front gates of Gaza’s largest hospital, where thousands of wounded and displaced people are trapped amid intense Israeli bombardment.
Israeli forces had completely surrounded al-Shifa hospital early Saturday morning, preventing ambulances from entering or leaving the facility, where medical supplies and food are running low.
“They are attacking and destroying the front gates of the main medical complex in the Gaza Strip, as patients and thousands of Palestinians are still living inside the courtyard of this hospital,” Al Jazeera’s Tareq Abu Azzoum said.
“Those people are really trapped right now by Israeli forces who are stationed in different sectors encircling the whole place. They are no longer able to move ambulances to bring victims and wounded from the targeted areas. People are trapped and they lack food.”
Abu Azzoum said Israeli snipers and artillery also targeted anyone who moved outside the hospital.
Al-Shifa director Muhammad Abu Salmiya described the area around the hospital as a “battlefield” but said hospital staff have vowed to stay with patients until the “last moment”.
“We don’t want to leave because we know that if we leave the hospital, dozens of patients will die,” Abu Salmiya told Al Jazeera.
The escalating bombardment comes after an Israeli attack on al-Shifa hospital early Friday killed at least 13 people and wounded several others, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled enclave.
Health officials said later Friday that Israeli tanks were closing in on at least four hospitals in northern Gaza from all directions.
As the fighting escalated on Friday night, Marwan Jilani, director general of the Palestinian Red Crescent, condemned Israel for attacking hospitals at the UN Security Council in New York.
“Displaced people in the hospitals are being shot at as we speak,” Jilani said.
“They ask, ‘What can we do? Where can we go?’ Thousands of innocent lives are under imminent threat.”
World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus echoed his concerns, saying he was “extremely disturbed” by the situation at al-Shifa Hospital.
“Many of the thousands housed in the hospital are forced to evacuate due to security risks, while many are still there,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“WHO is very concerned about the safety of patients, health workers and those staying in hospitals. They need immediate protection.”
We are extremely disturbed by reports of airstrikes in the vicinity of Al-Shifa Hospital in #Gaza. Many health workers we were in contact with have been forced to leave the hospital in search of safety. Others report being unable to move due to severe insecurity. Many of the…
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) 10 November 2023
Israel has claimed that the hospital is being used by Hamas as a command center, which both the al-Shifa staff and the armed group have denied.
The area around al-Shifa has been bombed at least five times since Thursday, according to Gaza health officials, while Israeli forces have also hit al-Nasr Medical Center, al-Quds Hospital and al-Rantisi Hospital.
The WHO has confirmed that half of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are not functioning and that two-thirds of its primary health facilities are out of order amid the fighting.
At least 11,078 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, according to Palestinian health officials.
More than 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed by Hamas in the armed group’s surprise attack on Israel on October 7, according to Israeli officials.