The Israel Defense Forces have reached the outskirts of Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, where Israel believes Hamas’s main headquarters to be located, Hamas claimed on Friday morning. The IDF issued no comment.
According to Palestinian reports, heavy fighting was occurring around the perimeter of the hospital, as well as near Al-Rantisi Hospital, also in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.
The reports said that Israeli special forces were operating in the area and that armored forces were closing in.
The Associated Press said thousands of Palestinians were fleeing from around Shifa, and joining a growing exodus to the south of the strip.
The head of the Hamas-run media office in Gaza, Salama Maarouf, told Al Jazeera that strikes were carried out near three hospitals in total, but gave no casualty figures.
According to AFP, a Hamas statement claimed that there were “thirteen martyrs and dozens wounded in an Israeli strike on Al-Shifa compound today,” and hospital director Mohammad Abu Salmiya alleged that “Israeli tanks fired on Al-Shifa hospital.”
On Friday evening the military asserted that that blast had been caused by Palestinian gunmen. The IDF’s Arabic spokesperson Avichay Adraee said the explosion was caused by an errant missile launched toward Israeli forces operating near the hospital, but which missed and struck the medical center itself. Adrae cited “an analysis of the IDF’s operational systems.”
The IDF has repeatedly said it does not target hospitals. Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry accuses Israel of responsibility for all incidents involving civilian deaths, while Israel says some are caused by Palestinian terror groups through rocket misfires and other accidents.
On Thursday the IDF said that the 162nd Division was operating in Hamas’s “military quarter” of Gaza City, clashing frequently with terror operatives.
According to Israel, the so-called military quarter, adjacent to Shifa Hospital, is “the heart” of Hamas’s intelligence and operational activities, and sites in the area were used to plan and prepare the October 7 onslaught in southern Israel that killed some 1,400 people and saw the abduction of some 240.
As the IDF presses its campaign into the heart of Hamas’s operation, growing numbers of people have been living in and around Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest, hoping it will be safer than their homes or United Nations shelters in the north.
The military has continued to urge civilian populations to evacuate to the southern part of the enclave via humanitarian corridors, and accused Hamas of compelling noncombatants to remain in the area, including near hospitals.
On Friday, dozens of Gazan civilians raising white flags attempted to leave the compound of the Al-Nasr Hospital in Gaza City following an evacuation order by the IDF, but video footage showed they were forced to turn back after they came under gunfire.
"كانوا يحملون الرايات البيضاء".. الاحتلال يطلق النار على النازحين والطواقم الطبية التي حاولت الخروج من مستشفى النصر المحاصر pic.twitter.com/HEIRYmIH4x
— EL BILAD – البلاد (@El_Bilade) November 10, 2023
While it was not clear from the video footage who was shooting, Israeli sources accused Hamas gunmen of opening fire on the crowd to prevent them from leaving the compound. Palestinian sources, on the other hand, claimed that the IDF was behind the shooting.
Meanwhile, the IDF said that troops of its 7th Armored Brigade raided a Hamas outpost and training camp in the northern Gaza Strip over the past day, seizing dozens of weapons and killing some 30 terror operatives.
Troops captured assault rifles, missiles, mortars, drones, maps, communications equipment and other technological equipment from the site, the IDF said on Friday.
The troops also raided the offices of Muhammed Sinwar, the brother of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, capturing weapons and other materials.
In another operation carried out by the 7th Brigade with members of the elite combat engineering Yahalom unit, troops raided a Hamas outpost belonging to the terror group’s Sabra neighborhood battalion.
The IDF said troops found anti-aircraft missile operation and calibration systems, several drones, a loaded rocket launcher, technological equipment and intelligence documents in the outpost.
Earlier in the day, troops of the military’s 401st Brigade located a Hamas rocket launcher on the coast of the Gaza Strip, hidden inside a shipping container, footage released by the IDF shows.
The IDF also said paratroopers operating in the Gaza City neighborhood of Sheikh Ijlin found a rocket launcher near a residential home.
Both launchers were destroyed, the military said.
Though rocket fire from Gaza has lessened dramatically over the course of the war, on Friday afternoon a volley was fired at central Israel from Gaza for the first time in some two days. Two people were injured by falling rocket shrapnel after Iron Dome interceptions in Tel Aviv, one of them moderately and the other lightly.
Elsewhere in the Gaza Strip, ground forces killed several Hamas operatives, including members of the terror group’s elite Nukhba forces who participated in the October 7 massacre, the IDF said.
The operations were carried out following intelligence information provided to the soldiers by the Shin Bet security agency.
The IDF said the troops killed Ahmed Musa, a Nukhba company commander, and Amr Alhandi, a Nukhba platoon commander, who were holed up in Jabaliya.
According to the IDF, Musa was one of the Hamas commanders who led the assault on the Zikim base, the nearby kibbutz of the same name, and another army post in the area on October 7.
“In recent days Ahmed Musa led offensive activity against IDF forces in the west Jabaliya area,” the IDF statement said, adding that troops also killed Muhammed Kahlout, the head of Hamas’s so-called sniper array in the terror group’s northern Gaza brigade.
In another incident, the IDF said that troops of the 252nd Division killed 19 Hamas operatives who were planning to attack soldiers.
The death toll of soldiers killed fighting inside the Gaza Strip rose to 37 on Friday, after the IDF announced that a soldier who was critically wounded during fighting in the Strip on November 8 had succumbed to his injuries.
The statement identified the soldier as Staff Sgt. Yehonatan Yitzhak Semo, 21, of the Paratrooper’s 202nd Battalion, from Karmei Zur.
Earlier on Friday morning, the IDF confirmed the death of Staff Sgt. Gilad Rozenblit, 21, a combat medic of the 401st Armored Brigade’s 52nd Battalion who fell during fighting in the northern Gaza Strip, from the northern Israeli community of Ginegar.
On Thursday, Israel confirmed that it would be formalizing and broadening localized pauses in fighting to build on the humanitarian corridors through which people can escape the densest and most intense areas of fighting.
The new four-hour pauses will take place in a different northern Gaza neighborhood each day, with residents notified three hours ahead of time. They will be able to use this time to either evacuate to the south via the two humanitarian corridors that Israel has established or leave their homes in order to restock on food, medicine and other aid, the senior Israeli official said.
However, speaking in New Delhi on Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that while the US “appreciates” the steps being taken to minimize civilian casualties, it isn’t enough.