Al-Shifa has become a symbol of the widespread suffering of Palestinian civilians during the war between Israel and Hamas,
The Israeli army on Friday intensified its hunt for alleged Hamas hideouts hidden in Gaza’s largest hospital.
Palestinian authorities claimed Israeli soldiers had now “destroyed” several wards at al-Shifa Hospital, a huge medical facility in Gaza City.
On Wednesday, Israeli troops and tanks raided the site where thousands of critically ill patients, newborns and displaced civilians are trapped, without water and electricity,
Their dire condition has sparked urgent calls from the international community for Israel to show restraint. According to the UN, 2,300 people are currently in hospital.
Al-Shifa Hospital director Muhammad Abu Salmiya said last night the facility had run out of oxygen and water, with patients “screaming from thirst”.
Israeli tanks were surrounding the hospital, he said. Drones flew overhead and Israeli troops were still moved around inside, searching the complex on Thursday evening.
Israel’s army claimed its operation was proceeding in a “discreet, methodical and thorough manner”.
But a journalist trapped inside the hospital told the BBC by phone that Israeli troops were “everywhere, shooting in all directions”.
For several days, Israel has been tightening its grip on Gaza City, especially its hospitals.
It accuses Hamas of using them as bases and treating the sick as “human shields”.
International law obliges militaries to distinguish between combatants and civilians that must be protected, while some observers claim Israel uses the notion of “human shields” to deflect blame for high civilian casualties.
“We are focusing on what is underground, including in hospitals. As such, our soldiers discovered the entrance to a tunnel at al-Shifa hospital and military engineers are currently working to dig up the infrastructure on site,” Israeli army spokesperson Daniel Hagari said late Thursday evening.
Israel claims the medical facility houses strategic Hamas infrastructure, notably tunnels dug under the complex. Both Hamas and hospital staff deny this.