Aid groups: 'Unimaginable' situation at Khan Younis hospital

IDF: Hamas gunmen are ‘destroying’ Shifa, firing from emergency room, maternity ward

Israel rejects responsibility as terror group claims 13 patients have died because of IDF raid; Hamas admits key operatives killed, nabbed at hospital; 8 rockets fired at Ashdod

Troops of the Navy's Shayetet 13 commando unit operate at Gaza City's Shifa Hospital, in a handout image published March 25, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Troops of the Navy's Shayetet 13 commando unit operate at Gaza City's Shifa Hospital, in a handout image published March 25, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces on Monday accused Hamas gunmen of firing at troops from Shifa Hospital’s emergency room, maternity and burn wards, as the terror group claimed patients were dying due to the ongoing military operation in the facility.

“Right now, Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists are barricading themselves inside Shifa hospital wards. Hamas is destroying Shifa Hospital,” IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said in an English-language video statement. “Hamas is firing from inside the Shifa emergency room and maternity ward and throwing explosive devices from the Shifa burn ward. Terrorists hiding around the hospital fired mortars at our forces, causing extensive damage to the hospital buildings.”

The IDF said the number of confirmed members of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad captured by troops at the Gaza City medical center had risen to 500, out of over 800 suspects arrested since the raid began last week.

Hamas has said that at least 13 patients have died during the ongoing IDF raid, alleging that they were deprived of medication or that their ventilators stopped working after Israeli forces cut hospital electricity, The New York Times reported.

International law stipulates that while a medical facility is a protected site in conflict, it loses that status if it is used for military activity. Israel has offered evidence Hamas uses such facilities as cover for terror purposes and says the group plunders humanitarian aid to take supplies for its fighters, depriving the civilian population.

Israel has said those arrested at Shifa include several “very significant” senior Hamas and PIJ commanders. Seemingly confirming that, an unnamed Hamas official told Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar newspaper that the significance of commanders from the group who had been detained or killed during the operation should not be underestimated.

“Nobody should underestimate the size of the infiltration carried out by the enemy army at Al-Shifa Hospital, nor underestimate the importance of the figures who were arrested or executed,” the source told the outlet linked to the Hezbollah terror group.

A Palestinian man lies on the ground as he awaits medical attention at the Shifa hospital in Gaza City on March 15, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)

However, the source asserted that “the resistance dealt with the current situation and was able to reshape its ranks, given the possibility that the enemy would obtain new information as a result of the investigation of the detainees. There are indications that the resistance is still fine and that all the current losses can be absorbed and lived with.”

Palestinians living near the hospital have reported hellish conditions, including corpses in the streets, constant bombardment and the rounding up of men, who are stripped to their underwear and questioned.

In his statement, Hagari said, “170 terrorists were neutralized in or around the Shifa Hospital compound while firing at our forces. The IDF apprehended hundreds of terror suspects with confirmed ties to Hamas or Islamic Jihad, making this one of the most successful operations since the start of the war.”

“A large number of these terrorists were involved in planning and executing the brutal massacre of October 7,” he said.

Hagari said the operation “is not over.”

Appearing to respond to Hamas’s accusations of mistreatment toward patients, Hagari said the IDF “operates with precision and acts with care toward the patients and medical staff inside the hospital.”

“We do this because we distinguish between Hamas terrorists and the civilians they are hiding behind,” he said.

By contrast, he said, “I repeat: Hamas is firing mortars at Shifa Hospital. Hamas is destroying Shifa Hospital. Hamas hijacked Shifa Hospital and hides behind the sick and injured, waging war from inside Shifa Hospital.”

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari delivers an English-language video statement, March 24, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Rockets at Ashdod

As fighting raged throughout the Gaza Strip, a barrage of eight rockets was fired from the enclave at Ashdod on Monday afternoon, with Hamas claiming responsibility for the attack.

Two of the rockets were intercepted, while the rest apparently struck open areas, the IDF said.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

Rocket attacks from Gaza on Israeli towns have become rare amid Israeli gains in the war. The last time rockets were fired at Ashdod, some 25 kilometers from the Strip, was on January 14.

Fighting throughout Gaza

Meanwhile, the army denied some media reports Monday claiming there had been an infiltration into Israeli territory from Gaza.

“IDF forces are deployed and prepared in the area,” the IDF added.

In the southern Strip, the IDF said troops killed some 20 gunmen during an ongoing and new offensive against Hamas in Khan Younis’s Al-Amal neighborhood, led by the 98th Division.

The military said dozens of suspects were questioned by field interrogators of the Shin Bet security agency and the Military Intelligence Directorate’s Unit 504, as the IDF enabled hundreds of civilians to evacuate the Al-Amal area.

In central Gaza, the IDF said the Nahal Brigade killed several terror operatives, including one who was targeted in an airstrike after being spotted entering and exiting a tunnel.

Over the past day, Israeli Air Force fighter jets targeted some 50 sites across the Strip, according to the IDF. Attack helicopters and drones struck several more targets and killed some 10 gunmen, the army added.

Rafah, the last refuge for over a million Palestinians on the Gaza Strip’s southern border with Egypt, was among cities that came under fire in the latest strikes.

Palestinian medics said 30 people had been killed in the previous 24 hours in Rafah, whose population has been swollen by displaced Palestinians escaping fighting elsewhere in Gaza after more than five months of war. The numbers cannot be independently verified.

A man inspects the damage to a building after an overnight Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 25, 2024. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

“Every bombing that takes place in Rafah, we fear the tanks will come in. The past 24 hours were one of the worst days since we moved into Rafah,” said Abu Khaled, a father of seven, who declined to give his full name for fear of reprisals.

Israeli officials have said Rafah is Hamas’s last major stronghold in Gaza, with four active battalions. It insists that a ground offensive in Rafah is crucial to the goal of eliminating Hamas and will take place after civilians are safely evacuated, but has yet to provide details on where they are meant to go.

“In Rafah, we live in fear, we are hungry, we are homeless and our future is unknown. With no ceasefire in sight, we might end up dead or displaced somewhere else, maybe north and maybe south [to Egypt],” he told Reuters via a chat app.

Dozens of Palestinians took part in rallies and attended funerals early on Monday after an Israeli airstrike killed 18 Palestinians in one house in Deir el-Balah in central Gaza, Palestinian medics and witnesses said.

‘Unimaginable’ situation at European Gaza Hospital

Aid groups released a statement Monday after they visited the European Gaza Hospital near Khan Younis, where they witnessed an “unimaginable” situation in which patients with large open wounds were left untreated.

An emergency medical team organized by three aid groups spent two weeks carrying out surgeries and other care at the medical center.

The team charged that Israeli restrictions had led to shortages of medical supplies, including basics like gauze and plates and screws used to stabilize broken bones.

Israel insists that there are no limits to the amount of inspected aid whose entry into Gaza it is willing to facilitate and that the United Nations is failing to keep pace, while Hamas and armed groups divert assistance from civilians. The UN says aid distribution has become incredibly difficult amid the fighting.

A Palestinian man mourns the death of relatives allegedly killed in an Israeli bombardment, at the morgue of the European Hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on March 23, 2024. (Said Khatib/AFP)

The visiting surgeons “reported large infected open wounds on patients and having to administer emergency nutritional supplies to patients as the lack of food was jeopardizing patient treatment.”

Hospitals in Gaza are struggling amid the ongoing war that erupted on October 7, when Palestinian terror group Hamas launched a massive cross-border attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians. The terrorists also abducted 253 people who were taken as hostages in Gaza, over half of whom remain captive.

Israel responded with an air, sea and ground military campaign to destroy Hamas, remove it from power in Gaza, and free the hostages.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel launched a wide-scale military campaign in Gaza, aiming to destroy the terror group and return the hostages. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said Monday that 32,333 Palestinians have been killed and 74,694 injured since October 7. The unverified figure does not differentiate between combatants and civilians and is believed to include Palestinians killed by terror groups’ rocket misfires and at least 13,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

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