Israeli army via Agence France-Presse This photo published by the army Israeli shows soldiers of the Jewish state during a military operation Wednesday in the Gaza Strip.
Adel Zaanoun – Agence France-Presse and Sophie Makris – Agence France-Presse respectively in the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem
- Middle East
L The Israeli army announced Thursday that it would search each building of the al-Chifa hospital, the largest in Gaza, the day after the raid carried out on this site which it presents as a Hamas hideout, despite the presence of patients and trapped civilians by fighting.
The Hamas government claimed that Israeli soldiers had “destroyed” several wards of the hospital, a huge complex located in the west of Gaza City, at the heart of the fighting that has raged for days between the army and Islamist fighters.
Israel has vowed to “annihilate” Hamas, which took power in the Gaza Strip in 2007, since the deadly attack it launched on Israeli soil on October 7, and has since relentlessly bombarded the small, besieged Palestinian territory.
The Israeli army, which launched ground operations on October 27, took control of government buildings, “empty” according to Hamas, before launching a raid on Wednesday on the al-Chifa hospital, a refuge for thousands of Palestinians fleeing the war, which has sparked urgent calls to protect civilians.
The UN Security Council has called for “urgent and prolonged humanitarian pauses” in the Gaza Strip. On X, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan considered this resolution “disconnected from reality”. > Israeli operation in Gaza hospital raises concerns
Israel also announced the capture of the Gaza port on Thursday, saying the small fishing port was used by Hamas as a training center “to plan and execute naval terrorist attacks.”
The port's activity is very limited by the blockade imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip since 2007.
The army also confirmed to AFP that its soldiers were still deployed in the grounds of the al-Chifa hospital, in the same sector, where, according to the UN, there are around 2,300 people, patients, caregivers and civilians displaced by the war.
Israel believes that this hospital houses strategic infrastructure of Hamas, classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Israel, notably in tunnels dug under the complex, what the Islamist movement denies.
For several days, the army has been tightening its grip on Gaza City and more particularly its hospitals, accusing Hamas of using them as bases and of using the sick as “human shields”.
On Thursday, an army official announced that soldiers were “searching every floor, building after building while hundreds of patients and medical staff remain in the complex.”
< h2 class="h2-intertitre">“Images relating to the hostages”
“Images relating to hostages” captured during the Hamas attack on Israel were found on computers seized during the raid and belonging to the Islamist movement, the official added.
The ministry of Health of the Hamas government claimed that the Israeli army had struck several departments of the hospital, “destroyed the radiology department and bombed the burns and dialysis department.”
Le Crescent -Palestinian Red also announced Thursday afternoon that a “violent attack” was carried out by Israeli tanks on another hospital in Gaza City, Ahli Arab, and that it was “under siege”.
In Israel, the attack launched on October 7 by Hamas commandos from the Gaza Strip left around 1,200 dead, mainly civilians killed that day, according to the authorities.
Since the attack , 51 soldiers were killed in the Palestinian territory, according to the Israeli army.
The Israeli army estimates the number of hostages taken by Hamas to Gaza at around 240.
Israeli bombings carried out in retaliation in the Gaza Strip left 11,500 dead, mostly civilians, including 4,710 children, according to the Hamas Ministry of Health.
According to Hamas, several dozen people were killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza overnight from Wednesday to Thursday. Nine civilians died in a strike on a gas station in the Nousseirat camp in the center, where dozens of displaced people had sought refuge.
At the al-Chifa hospital, “Israeli bulldozers have partly destroyed the southern entrance” to the complex, “near the maternity ward”, already damaged by tank shell fire in recent days, announced overnight the Hamas Ministry of Health.
The Israeli army claims to have found Hamas “munitions, weapons and military equipment” there, and has released images of what it claims are weapons, grenades and other equipment.
Hamas' health ministry denied the Israeli announcements, saying it “does not authorize” the presence of weapons in its establishments.
AFP was not able to independently verify claims from both camps.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk on Thursday called for an international investigation to verify “extremely serious allegations” of violations of international law , “whatever their authors.”
US President Joe Biden, a key supporter of Israel, called on his ally to be “extremely careful” in conducting his hospital operation.
Release “immediately » hostages
In Israel, pressure is increasing on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the hostage issue. A march of relatives of the hostages who left Tel Aviv on Tuesday to demand an agreement on their release, is due to arrive in Jerusalem on Friday.
While talks are being held via Qatar mediation, Joe Biden said “relatively optimistic”.
The head of European Union diplomacy, Josep Borrell, for his part called for the “immediate release” of the hostages during a visit Thursday to Beeri, in southern Israel.
In this devastated kibbutz where at least 85 people were killed by Hamas commandos and around thirty others taken hostage, he called on the government “not to let itself be consumed by rage”.
Israel has so far refused any ceasefire without prior release of the hostages.
According to the UN, 1.65 of the Gaza Strip's 2.4 million residents have been displaced by the war. Several hundred thousand of them have fled the north, where the fighting is most intense, to the south, near the Egyptian border.
Since October 9, Israel has placed the Gaza Strip under complete siege, cutting off deliveries of water, electricity, food and medicine, while international aid arrives in dribs and drabs by truck from Egypt.
Despite a first delivery of just over 23,000 liters of fuel on Wednesday, the UN warned that its aid operations in Gaza were “on the brink of collapse.”
The director of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said Thursday in Geneva that communications were once again “totally cut” with the Gaza Strip due to lack of fuel. “Gaza is once again suffering from a total communications blackout, and […] it’s because there is no fuel,” said Philippe Lazzarini.