Twenty-nine premature babies arrived in Egypt on Monday after they were evacuated from Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza, and the first Jordanian field hospital entered the Strip, as Israeli forces continued to engage in heavy fighting around several Gaza medical centers where they say Hamas has deeply embedded terror infrastructure.
Egyptian media reported on Monday morning that the babies had successfully been transported across the border, a day after they were evacuated from Gaza’s largest hospital, which has become a focal point of Israel’s war with Hamas.
Egypt did not clarify why only 29 babies arrived in Egypt after initial reports stated that 31 had been evacuated.
The infants were evacuated with Israeli assistance after troops took control of the hospital over the weekend. Israel has called for the evacuation of the hospital since the start of the war, along with calls for residents of northern Gaza to evacuate to a safe zone in the south.
“Over the last day, the IDF led by COGAT helped facilitate the safe evacuation of newborn Gazan babies from the pediatric ward of Shifa Hospital to receive essential medical treatment in Egypt,” said COGAT, the Defense Ministry body responsible for Palestinian civil affairs.
“The coordination of this vital mission was at the request of Egypt and the director of the Shifa Hospital. The evacuation was carried out by UN teams with the assistance of IDF teams on the ground. Israeli incubators were provided to Shifa hospital for the babies’ rescue effort,” COGAT said.
For the past several hours, we've been facilitating the transfer of Gazan premature babies from the Shifaa hospital for further medical treatment in Egypt.
This is done as part of the humanitarian efforts driven by Israel concurrently with the fight against Hamas in Gaza. pic.twitter.com/Z9r9shqqsT
— COGAT (@cogatonline) November 20, 2023
Israel has long asserted that Hamas uses hospitals in the Gaza Strip as the base for its terror activities. Since the start of the ongoing war, in which Israel has vowed to eliminate Hamas from the coastal enclave, the United States has backed up these charges with independent evidence.
Twelve people were reportedly killed in an Israeli airstrike on the Indonesian Hospital in northern Gaza overnight, the spokesman for the Hamas-run health ministry Ashraf al-Qudra claimed on Monday.
The airstrike victims included wounded patients and their companions, who “were killed and dozens wounded as a result of the Israeli occupation targeting the Indonesian Hospital,” he said.
The claims could not be verified and there was no immediate comment from the IDF regarding the alleged airstrikes against the hospital.
Marwan Abdallah, a medical worker at the Indonesian Hospital, said Israeli tanks were operating less than 200 meters from the hospital, and that Israeli snipers could be seen on the roofs of nearby buildings. Footage broadcast on Al Jazeera appeared to show Israeli tanks outside the hospital, apparently engaged in a firefight with Hamas operatives in the area.
Earlier this month, the Israeli Defense Forces said that it had intelligence documents showing the presence of a tunnel network underneath the Indonesian Hospital, as well as aerial imagery showing rocket launchers a few dozen meters from the complex.
At the same time, the IDF continued to operate inside Shifa Hospital, where it has exposed weapons and tunnels along with camera footage from inside the hospital showing that some of the hostages had been brought there.
Israeli officials have been intent on displaying evidence of Hamas’s misuse of Shifa to the world, to back up their assertions that the terror organization uses civilians and civilian infrastructure to shield itself, and thus shore up support for Israel’s ongoing offensive.
As hospitals in northern Gaza largely stopped functioning, some relief was provided Monday when a field hospital sent by Jordan entered the Gaza Strip.
“The hospital will be established in Khan Younis, to receive the wounded and the sick, under catastrophic conditions which southern hospitals are experiencing, with the influx of hundreds of wounded each day and continued aggressive aerial and artillery strikes,” said Mohammed Zaqout, director-general of Gaza’s hospitals.
Israel also pressed ahead with its ground offensive as it looks to destroy Hamas’s military and political power in Gaza following the October 7 assault on southern Israel in which 3,000 Hamas-led terrorists killed some 1,200 people, most of them civilians massacred amid brtutal atrocities, and took some 240 people hostage in Gaza.
Israel declared war on Hamas in response, launching an aerial campaign and a subsequent ground offensive that is aimed at toppling the Gaza-ruling terror group and securing the release of the hostages. The ground operation, in which 66 IDF soldiers have been killed, has concentrated on northern Gaza but is expected to expand to the Strip’s south in the future stages of the war.
Three Hamas company commanders were also killed in an airstrike carried out by Israeli Air Force fighter jets in the Gaza Strip overnight, the IDF said.
The strikes were carried out following intelligence information on the commanders’ whereabouts provided by the Shin Bet and Military Intelligence Directorate.
Separately, the IDF said that Nahal Brigade troops identified a group of Hamas operatives heading into a building near them in the Gaza Strip, and called in an airstrike.
After determining that the building was being used as a weapons depot, it was destroyed in the strike.
The process of calling in and carrying out an airstrike was documented in newly released footage of the IDF’s Border Defense Corps’s 414th unit.
IDF footage shows strikes carried out on Hamas observation positions in the Gaza Strip following identifications by the Border Defense Corps's 414th unit, as well the location of a Hamas tunnel. The combat soldiers of the unit are also operating on the ground in Gaza. pic.twitter.com/N45nKLa4r7
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) November 20, 2023
The footage depicted strikes being carried out on Hamas observation tunnels following identifications by the 414th unit, as well as the moment when the surveillance soldiers identified a Hamas tunnel.
Additional footage posted online on Monday appeared to show the IDF demolishing a Hamas tunnel network in northern Gaza’s Beit Hanoun.
The drone footage, published by the Kan public broadcaster, shows first a single blast and then a series of synchronized explosions, apparently at all the tunnel entrances found by the troops.
However, it is unclear when the video was taken, as it was not issued officially by the IDF.
בית חאנון, צפון הרצועה pic.twitter.com/eTEaQ4VRxQ
— איתי בלומנטל ???????? Itay Blumental (@ItayBlumental) November 19, 2023
The IDF has said it has demolished hundreds of tunnel entrances in northern Gaza amid the ground offensive.
Also Monday, the IDF announced that three soldiers were killed during fighting in the northern Gaza Strip over the last day, bringing the death toll in the ground offensive to 66.
They were identified as Staff Sgt. Dvir Barazani, 20, of the Paratroopers Brigade’s 890th Battalion, from Jerusalem; Sgt. Yinon Tamir, 20, of the Paratroopers Brigade’s 890th Battalion, from Pardes Hanna-Karkur; and Staff Sgt. Eytan Dishon, 21, of the Givati Brigade’s reconnaissance unit, from Jerusalem.
The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry claims that 13,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war on October 7, including at least 5,500 children and 3,500 women. The figures provided by the terror group cannot be independently verified and do not differentiate between civilians and Hamas operatives, and also do not distinguish between those killed by Israeli airstrikes and those killed by failed Palestinian rocket launches.
The UN has warned that Gaza’s 2.3 million people are running critically short of food and water, and said the amount of fuel being provided is only half of the daily minimum requirement. Israel says Hamas has plundered Gaza’s resources, including fuel, and has expressed concern this will continue and let the terror group continue powering its rockets and tunnel network.
Israel has resisted calls for a ceasefire unless a significant number of the some 240 hostages abducted on October 7, including all women and children, are released in exchange. There has also been concern that an extended pause in the fighting would allow Hamas and other terror groups to regroup and prepare for the next stage of fighting, impeding the IDF’s ability to operate.
Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report.