ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 148

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Army says 14,300 tons of humanitarian aid have entered Strip

IDF says Hamas blocked fuel delivery to Shifa Hospital as troops advance in Gaza

Fierce battles continue near hospital as Israel reiterates it is helping staff, patients evacuate; Shin Bet says 20 terrorists arrested deep in Gaza, taken for questioning

Israeli forces seen operating in northern Gaza in this handout photo released for publication on November 12, 2023. (IDF)
Israeli forces seen operating in northern Gaza in this handout photo released for publication on November 12, 2023. (IDF)

Israeli troops on Sunday advanced in the northern Gaza Strip, capturing an urban area near Beit Hanoun as fierce fighting continued around Shifa Hospital and Israel maintained it was working to ensure that civilians and patients were unharmed in the battles.

The Israel Defense Forces said it had supplied 300 liters of fuel to Shifa Hospital, in coordination with its staff, but that Hamas had prevented the embattled medical center from accepting it.

The event played out as fierce fighting continued around Shifa Hospital and Israel maintained it was working to ensure that civilians and patients were unharmed in the battles. The army has accused Hamas of having its main base of operations under Shifa Hospital, and has called on Palestinian civilians in the area, as well as in the entire north Gaza, to evacuate south.

Sunday also saw sporadic rocket fire from Gaza at southern border towns, setting off sirens in the largely evacuated kibbutzim of Holit, Kfar Aza, Nahal Oz and Sa’ad. No injuries were reported. The IDF death toll in the Gaza ground operation stood at 42 as of Sunday evening, with no new casualties announced since Saturday.

The IDF said that early Sunday morning it placed jerrycans of fuel near the hospital for “urgent medical purposes,” which it had coordinated in advance with officials. Later, it said, “the IDF received evidence that Hamas officials prevented the hospital from receiving the fuel.”

The military published a call between an IDF officer and a senior Gazan health official, who said that Yousef Abu-Al Rish, the deputy health minister in Gaza, forbade the hospital from receiving the fuel. The IDF did not say what happened with the fuel after that.

Gaza health officials allege thousands of medics, patients and displaced people are trapped in the area surrounding Shifa Hospital, with no electricity and dwindling supplies. The IDF has denied they are trapped, saying the east side of the hospital is open for the safe passage of Gazans who wish to leave.

The IDF said it was in contact with staff at hospitals in northern Gaza to aid them in safely evacuating, and denied that it had besieged Shifa, deeming such claims misinformation.

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi told a meeting of southern mayors in Ashkelon Sunday that the military and he personally “are focused on just one goal right now — defeating and dismantling Hamas.” He once again admitted that the IDF failed in its mission to defend residents on October 7, adding: “We will remember what happened, fight, and not allow such an event to happen again.”

The Shin Bet and IDF said Sunday evening that some 20 members of Hamas had been arrested by Israeli troops in the “in the heart of the Gaza Strip” to be questioned in Israel. Few details were given about the operation or where it took place. The intelligence agency said it was collaborating with the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate’s Unit 504 and other troops to gather intelligence, carry out special operations, arrest wanted Palestinians and interrogate them.

“The interrogations of the terror operatives will be used to obtain up-to-date intelligence from the ground and to aid with the continuation of the ground maneuver and the fighting efforts,” the Shin Bet said.

The army published a recording on Sunday of calls between a senior officer in its liaison office, the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), and hospital staff at the Shifa, Rantisi and Nasr hospitals in northern Gaza, instructing them how to safely evacuate toward the southern part of the Strip.

Palestinians have been able to leave the three hospitals, either by foot or in ambulances, after the IDF secured routes that lead to the Salah a-Din Road, which serves as a humanitarian corridor for several hours during each day.

“Anyone who wishes to move from the hospital and toward the hospital, Al-Wehda Street, east of the hospital, is open,” a senior officer in COGAT’s Coordination and Liaison Administration told an official at Shifa. “There are no Israeli forces on the eastern side of the hospital,” the officer said.

The Israeli military also said Sunday that humanitarian pauses in the northern Gaza Strip will continue to enable Palestinians to evacuate south. The IDF’s Arabic-language Spokesman, Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee, wrote on X that Salah a-Din Road was open for southbound movement for a total of seven hours Sunday, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Additionally, he said the IDF was making “tactical pauses in military activities” in the town of Jabaliya and the nearby neighborhood of Izbat Malien between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., so that Palestinians could reach the humanitarian corridors to evacuate south.

Israel has presented evidence in recent weeks that Hamas’s main command center is located underneath Shifa and accused the terror group of using the hospital and its occupants — with 1,500 beds and some 4,000 staff — as human shields for the elaborate bunkers and tunnels beneath it.

The IDF said Sunday that in one recent incident, Givati Brigade troops identified civilians in a building, and enabled them to evacuate, but during the evacuation Hamas opened fire at the soldiers. The troops returned fire and tanks shelled the gunmen, killing them, and allowing the civilians to continue to evacuate the area, the IDF said.

Israeli forces seen operating in northern Gaza in this handout photo released for publication on November 12, 2023. (IDF)

The military said that troops are still engaged in intense fighting around al-Shati refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip along the coast, taking out cells of Hamas gunmen hiding in the camp and striking a Hamas weapons depot after it was used to fire a missile.

On Sunday, the IDF said that troops in its Harel Reserves Brigade had captured the “al-Karameh area” — apparently named after a local hospital — between Beit Hanoun and Jabaliya, in the northern Gaza Strip.

According to the IDF, during the raids troops destroyed Hamas infrastructure in the area, including long-range rocket launchers aimed at Israel, anti-tank missile launch positions, tunnels and observation posts. The soldiers also killed several Hamas men during the fighting.

According to COGAT, as of Sunday morning 14,320 tons of humanitarian aid on 905 trucks have entered the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the war.

“There is no limit to the amount of food, water and medical equipment that can enter Gaza,” COGAT wrote on X. “We invite the international community to coordinate and we will facilitate.”

While aid has trickled into the Strip, humanitarian organizations say it is nowhere near enough. Israel says Hamas has stockpiles of fuel and supplies that it is keeping from an increasingly desperate civilian population.

Ishaq Sidr, the Palestinian Authority’s minister of telecommunications and information technology, claimed on Sunday that telephone and internet services in the Gaza Strip would come to a complete halt on Thursday due to a lack of fuel.

A smoke plume erupts during purported Israeli shelling in the Gaza Strip on November 12, 2023. (FADEL SENNA / AFP)

While claims of basic services halting have been made repeatedly since the very beginning of the war, they have yet to materialize as fuel has not fully run out in the Strip, though Israel has continued to refuse to allow it to enter along with other aid, saying it is a key war resource for Hamas.

Speaking at a press conference in Ramallah, Sidr said that technical crews in Gaza have made tremendous efforts to keep internet and phone service going despite the ongoing military operation.

A ship dispatched by the government of France will dock off the coast of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula this week and will operate as a floating hospital for wounded Gazans with roughly 70 beds, a diplomat at Israel’s Embassy in Washington revealed to The Times of Israel on Sunday.

While there had initially been proposals for ships to dock off the coast of Gaza, it is too damaged by Israeli strikes for large boats to be able to harbor there.

People stand outside the emergency ward of Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on November 10, 2023, amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. (Khader Al Zanoun/AFP)

Israel is supportive of a separate European Union effort for the establishment of a marine humanitarian corridor, with ships of aid first docking in Cyprus for inspections before continuing to Gaza, a second Israeli official said.

But the damage to Gaza’s port complicates this proposal, which has been floated for years and never implemented.

Israel has been pushing for field hospitals and other alternatives to the existing medical centers in Gaza, saying that Hamas is operating command centers beneath them.

A spokesperson for France’s embassy in Tel Aviv did not deny the developments but told The Times of Israel, “The specifics of this operation, as well as the suggested humanitarian maritime corridor, are still subject to discussions among all relevant parties.”

Israel launched its war on Hamas in Gaza following the terror group’s murderous rampage through southern Israel on October 7, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking some 240 people captive.

The Hamas-run health ministry claims that more than 11,000 people have been killed since the start of the war. These figures cannot be independently verified, and do not distinguish between civilians and Hamas operatives, nor do they differentiate between those killed by Israeli airstrikes or in failed Palestinian rocket launches.

Tal Schneider, Gianluca Pacchiani and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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