Heavy fighting has erupted around a hospital in northern Gaza where thousands of patients and displaced people have been sheltering for weeks, as Israeli forces focus on medical facilities that they say Hamas militants are using for cover.
A shell has struck the second floor of the Indonesian Hospital, killing at least 12 people, according to the health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza and a medical worker inside the facility.
Israel’s northern advance came a day after the World Health Organisation evacuated 31 premature babies from the al-Shifa Hospital. At least 28 were transported to Egypt on Monday.
They were among more than 250 critically ill or injured patients stranded at the hospital days after Israeli forces entered the compound. Egypt’s state-run media later confirmed that babies evacuated from Shifa have arrived in the country.
The Palestinian Red Crescent rescue service said it was transporting 28 premature babies from a hospital in southern Gaza to another across the border to Egypt.
At the other end of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, at least 14 Palestinians were killed in two Israeli air strikes on houses in the town of Rafah, near the border with Egypt, health officials said.
The Israeli military said it was expanding its operation in the Gaza Strip, Agence France-Presse is reporting.
Israel warned residents of Gaza’s largest refugee camp, Jabalia, and a nearby coastal camp to evacuate, while the military said on Sunday it was “expanding its operational activities in additional neighbourhoods” of Gaza.
After intense bombardment, an AFP journalist in the territory saw columns of smoke rising from Jabalia, in northern Gaza, on Sunday.
A Hamas health official said more than 80 people were killed in twin strikes on Jabalia on Saturday, including on a UN school sheltering displaced people.
On Sunday, Qatari prime minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told a press conference in Doha that the main obstacles to a deal were now “very minor,” with mainly “practical and logistical” issues remaining.
A White House official said the “very complicated, very sensitive” negotiations were making progress.
Israel’s military on Sunday released video of what it said was a 55-metre section of a fortified tunnel running 10m beneath the al-Shifa Hospital complex in Gaza City.
Israel is seeking to bolster its allegations that Hamas has used the largest medical centre in the Gaza Strip as a base for its military operations.
The military released two videos, one of which appeared to have been filmed by a drone and shows parts of a metal spiral staircase. A longer video, which appeared to have been recorded by a robot or a camera carried by an animal, starts out above ground and shows the descent to a cloister-like tunnel with utility cables along one wall that leads to what Israeli officials described as a blast-proof door.
The New York Times verified that both videos were recorded at al-Shifa Hospital, which Israeli forces stormed last week.
Hamas has denied Israeli accusations that it uses civilian infrastructure, including residential buildings, mosques and hospitals, to hide its military fortifications and command centres. The group says Israel is committing war crimes by targeting civilian centres.
The Israeli military also released videos later Sunday that it said showed two hostages being taken inside the hospital on October 7th, when Hamas launched a cross-border attack from the Gaza Strip. Israeli officials said that Hamas has used the hospital area for military operations.
Israeli officials said the second set of videos – which appeared to be from cameras mounted inside the hospital – were recorded hours after the Hamas raid into Israel and that they showed two hostages, one Thai and one Nepali, being escorted by armed fighters. The officials said they had no idea where the two hostages are now.
The New York Times verified the location of the footage as al-Shifa, but not the identities of those shown or the time stamps.
Gaza’s health ministry, controlled by Hamas, said in a statement that the authenticity of the videos could not be verified and took the opportunity to renew its criticism of Israel over a blockade that has led to a collapse of health services in the enclave to the deaths of hundreds of sick and injured.
More than 11,000 people have been killed in Gaza since October 7th, according to health officials in the Hamas-run enclave. Israel bombarded Gaza with airstrikes and subsequently launched a ground invasion of the territory in response to the surprise Hamas attack on southern Israel, in which about 1,200 people were killed and about 240 people were abducted and taken into Gaza.
The vast majority of those killed or taken hostage are civilians. – Agencies