Israeli military tells Gazans to evacuate Al-Shifa hospital

  • The Israeli army also carried out a November operation in Al-Shifa, sparking an international outcry
  • Thousands of Palestinians displaced by the war have sought shelter in the hospital complex

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: Israel’s military on Monday called on Gazans to evacuate the area in and around the territory’s largest hospital as battles raged at the complex crowded with patients and displaced people.  “In order to maintain your security, you must immediately evacuate the area,” army spokesman Avichay Adraee said on social media platform X, instructing “all those present” to head west and then south to a “humanitarian area.”  The Israeli army launched Monday an operation around Al-Shifa, with witnesses reporting air strikes on the devastated neighborhood where it is located.   Israeli soldiers “are currently conducting a precise operation in the area of the Shifa hospital,” a statement from the military said.

“The operation is based on intelligence information indicating the use of the hospital by senior Hamas terrorists.”Witnesses in Gaza City said they saw tanks surround the hospital site. The Israeli army also carried out a November operation in Al-Shifa, sparking an international outcry. Tens of thousands of Palestinians displaced by the war have sought shelter in the complex, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza.

Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas of running military operations from hospitals and other medical centers, claims the militant group denies.  The Hamas government media office in Gaza condemned the operation, saying that “the storming of the Al-Shifa medical complex with tanks, drones, and weapons, and shooting inside it, is a war crime.” The Israeli army has carried out several operations on medical facilities around the Gaza Strip since the start of the war.  The war began when Hamas launched an unprecedented attack from Gaza on October 7 that resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.

Palestinian militants seized about 250 Israeli and foreign hostages during the October 7 attack, but dozens were released during a week-long truce in November. Israel believes about 130 remain in Gaza including 33 — eight soldiers and 25 civilians — who are presumed dead.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel has carried out a relentless bombardment and ground offensive that the health ministry in the Palestinian territory says has killed at least 31,645 people, most of them women and children.

According to the Israeli military, troops “were instructed on the importance of operating cautiously, as well as on the measures to be taken to avoid harm to the patients, civilians, medical staff, and medical equipment.”

The statement also said Arabic speakers had been deployed in order to “facilitate dialogue with the patients remaining in the hospital.”

It added: “There is no obligation for the patients and medical staff to evacuate.” Following its November 15 operation on Al-Shifa, the Israeli military said it had found weapons and other military equipment hidden in the site — claims Hamas has denied.  It also claimed it had found a 55-meter tunnel in the basement and shared footage that it said proved hostages had been held there, which Hamas also denied.

According to the UN, 155 health facilities in the Gaza Strip have been damaged since the war began.

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