Home / News / Israeli forces raid main hospital in southern Gaza, saying hostages are likely being held there – Chicago Tribune

Israeli forces raid main hospital in southern Gaza, saying hostages are likely being held there – Chicago Tribune



RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli forces raided the main hospital in southern Gaza on Thursday, hours after Israeli gunfire killed one patient and injured six others. The Israeli military said it was a limited operation searching for the remains of hostages taken by Hamas.

The raid came a day after the army tried to evacuate thousands of displaced people taking shelter at Nasser Hospital in the city of Khan Younis, which has been the focus of Israeli attacks on Hamas in recent weeks. The war shows no signs of ending, and the risk of a wider conflict is rising as Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah step up attacks following Wednesday’s deadly clash.

The military said it had “credible intelligence” that Hamas was holding hostages at the hospital and that the hostages’ remains may still be inside. Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, the army’s chief spokesman, said forces were conducting a “precise and limited” operation there and would not forcibly evacuate medics or patients. Israel accuses Hamas of using hospitals and other civilian structures to protect its fighters.

A released hostage told The Associated Press last month that he and more than two dozen other captives were being held at Nasser Hospital. International law prohibits targeting medical facilities, but these protections could be lost if they are used for military purposes.

Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Kidra said Israel launched a “massive attack” with heavy weapons that injured displaced people still sheltering there. He said the military ordered medics to transfer all patients to an old building that was not properly equipped for their treatment.

“Many people cannot be evacuated, such as those with lower limb amputations, severe burns or the elderly,” he said in an interview with Al Jazeera.

Separately, Israel launched a second day of airstrikes on southern Lebanon after killing 10 civilians and three Hezbollah fighters in response to a rocket attack that killed an Israeli soldier and injured several others on Wednesday.

This was the deadliest clash along the border since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war. Israel and Hamas’ ally Hezbollah exchange fire on a daily basis, increasing the risk of a wider conflict.

Hezbollah did not claim responsibility for Wednesday’s rocket attack. But Sheikh Nabil Kaouk, a senior member of the group, said they were “prepared for the possibility of expanding the war” and that “tension will be met with escalation, displacement with displacement, and destruction with destruction.”

Meanwhile, talks on a ceasefire in Gaza appear to have stalled, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue the offensive until Hamas is destroyed and scores of hostages taken during the October 7 attack that sparked the war are returned.

Nasser Hospital became the latest focus of operations that destroyed Gaza’s health sector, which struggled to treat scores of patients injured in daily bombardments.

Video taken overnight after the strike showed paramedics struggling to carry patients on stretchers through a corridor filled with smoke or dust. A doctor used a cellphone flashlight to illuminate a dark room where a wounded man screamed in pain as gunshots echoed outside. The Associated Press could not verify the identity of the videos, but they were consistent with its reporting.

One of the remaining surgeons at Nasser Hospital, Dr. Khaled Alserr told the AP that seven patients shot early Thursday were being treated for past injuries.

“The situation is getting worse every hour and every minute,” he said.

The army ordered the evacuation of Nasser Hospital and surrounding areas last month. But as at other health facilities, medics said patients could not leave or be relocated safely and thousands of people remained there displaced by conflict elsewhere.

“People have been forced into an impossible situation,” said Lisa Macheiner of the aid group Doctors Without Borders.

“Stay at Nasser Hospital against the orders of the Israeli military and become a potential target, or exit the compound into an apocalyptic landscape where bombings and evacuation orders are part of daily life.”

The international aid group, also known by its French acronym MSF, said its staff had to flee the hospital on Thursday, leaving patients behind, and one employee was detained at an Israeli checkpoint just outside the facility.

The war began on October 7, when Hamas fighters broke through Israel’s formidable defenses and attacked several communities, killing nearly 1,200 people and taking 250 hostages. Last year, during the ceasefire, more than 100 captives were released in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners.

There are approximately 130 captives in Gaza and a quarter of them are believed to be dead. Netanyahu is under intense pressure from the hostages’ families and the public to make a deal that will secure their freedom; but his far-right coalition partners could topple his government if he is deemed too soft on Hamas.

Israel responded to the October 7 attack by launching one of the deadliest and most destructive military operations in recent history. More than 28,000 Palestinians have been killed, 80 percent of the population has fled their homes, and a quarter are starving to death amid a worsening humanitarian disaster. Large areas in the north of Gaza, the first target of the operation, were completely destroyed.

Hamas continues to attack Israeli forces throughout Gaza and says it will not release all remaining captives until Israel ends its offensive and withdraws. Hamas is also demanding the release of large numbers of Palestinian prisoners, including senior fighters.

Netanyahu rejected these demands, calling them “imaginary”. He said Israel would soon expand its offensive to the southernmost city of Gaza, Rafah, on the Egyptian border. More than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million population have sought refuge in Rafah after fleeing fighting elsewhere in the coastal region.

At least 28,663 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been killed since the start of the war, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants. More than 68,000 people were injured in the war.

Airstrikes in central Gaza late Wednesday killed at least 11 people, including four children and five women, according to hospital records. Before the bodies were loaded onto a truck for burial, relatives gathered around the bodies wrapped in white shrouds in front of the Masjid al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the central town of Deir al-Balah.

A man reached out and tried to let go of one of the bodies in the truck, holding it while crying.


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