“We are focusing on what is underground, including in hospitals. As such, our soldiers discovered the entrance to a tunnel at al-Chifa hospital and military engineers are currently working to dig up the infrastructure on site,” said spokesperson Daniel Hagari late Thursday evening.
Israel claims that al-Chifa hospital houses strategic Hamas infrastructure, notably in tunnels dug under the complex, which the Islamist movement denies.
“Images relating to hostages” captured by Hamas were found on equipment seized during the raid, the army added.
“We had strong indications that they (the hostages, editor's note) were being held at al-Chifa hospital, and that is one of the reasons why we entered there. If the hostages were indeed there, they were transported,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the American channel CBS.
In Israel, around 1,200 people were killed, mainly civilians, according to the authorities, in the attack launched on October 7 by Hamas commandos from the Gaza Strip, of unprecedented violence and scale since the creation of Israel in 1948.
Since the attack, 51 soldiers have been killed in the Palestinian territory, according to the Israeli army which 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.
– Communications “totally cut” –
Since October 9, Israel has imposed a “complete siege” on the Palestinian territory, cutting off deliveries of water, electricity, food and medicine.
International aid to Gaza arrives in dribs and drabs by truck from Egypt, in insufficient quantity according to the UN, which is calling in particular for the delivery of fuel to operate the generators in hospitals.
The director of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, said Thursday in Geneva that communications were once again “totally cut” with the Gaza Strip due to lack of fuel.
“All telecommunications services in the Gaza Strip are now out of service because the energy sources powering the network have been exhausted and fuel is not allowed to enter,” Palestinian telecoms operator Paltel said , in a press release released Thursday at the end of the day.
Early Friday, AFP was unable to make contact with members of its team it was trying to reach in the Gaza Strip where, according to the UN, 1.65 of the 2.4 million inhabitants were displaced by the war.
– “Immediate risk of famine” –
“We have no electricity, drinking water or food (…) Thousands of women, children, sick people and wounded are in danger of death,” Hamas Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidreh told AFP.
“With winter fast approaching, precarious and overcrowded shelters, as well as lack of drinking water, civilians face an immediate risk of famine,” the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) warned on Thursday. united.
On the night of Thursday to Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Benny Gantz, a tenor of the Israeli opposition who joined Mr. Netanyahu's war cabinet, “about efforts to increase and accelerate the passage of essential humanitarian aid to Gaza”, according to Washington.
– “Delicate negotiations” –
In Israel, pressure is increasing on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on hostage issue. A march by 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 Qatari mediation.
The head of diplomacy of the European Union, Josep Borrell, called for the “immediate release” of the hostages, during a visit Thursday to Beeri, where at least 85 people were killed and around thirty others kidnapped on 7 October.
Fighting in Gaza © AFP – Sophie RAMIS, Maxence D'AVERSA, Olivia BUGAULT
For the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sameh Choukri, who says he is “in contact with Hamas, with other international parties concerned and with Israel”, the current negotiations are “very delicate”.
Israel has so far refused any ceasefire without prior release of the hostages. But for the exiled leader of Hamas, Ismaïl Haniyeh, Israel “has not achieved any of its objectives” and will only obtain “the release of its prisoners at the price that the resistance will set.”
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