Gaza officials said Israel launched air strikes on or near at least three hospitals on Friday, further stressing the Palestinian enclave’s precarious health system as it struggles to cope with thousands of people wounded or displaced in Israel’s war against Hamas militants.
“The Israeli occupation launched simultaneous strikes on a number of hospitals during the past hours”, Gaza Ministry of Health spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra told Al Jazeera television.
The medical facilities included Gaza’s biggest hospital, Al Jazeera Shifa, where Israel said Hamas has hidden command centres and tunnels, allegations Hamas denies.
Qidra said Israel targeted the Gaza City medical complex’s courtyard and there were casualties, but he did not provide details.
Israel’s military did not immediately comment on Qidra’s statement, which Reuters could not independently verify.
Gaza’s hospitals have struggled to care for victims of Israel’s month-old military campaign, aimed at obliterating Palestinian militant group Hamas, as medical supplies, clean water and fuel to power generators run out.
Gaza’s health ministry has said 18 of Gaza’s 35 hospitals and 40 other health centres were out of service either due to damage from bombardment or lack of fuel.
Palestinian media published video footage on Friday of Al Shifa, which Reuters was not immediately able to authenticate, that it said showed the aftermath of an Israeli attack on a parking lot where displaced Palestinians were sheltered and journalists were observing.
A pool of blood could be seen next to the body of a man being placed on a stretcher.
“With ongoing strikes and fighting nearby (Al Shifa), we are gravely concerned about the well-being of thousands of civilians there, many children among them, seeking medical care and shelter,” Human Rights Watch said on social media site X.
Qidra said Al-Rantisi Pediatric Hospital and Al-Nasr Children’s Hospital “have been witnessing a series of direct attacks and bombardments” on Friday.
He said strikes on the hospital grounds at Al-Rantisi set vehicles on fire but they had been partly extinguished.
Israel unleashed its assault in response to a cross-border Hamas raid on southern Israel from Gaza on Oct. 7 in which Israel says 1,400 people, mostly civilians, were killed and about 240 taken hostage. Israel says it has lost 35 soldiers in Gaza.
Palestinian officials said 10,812 Gaza residents had been killed as of Thursday, about 40 per cent of them children, in air and artillery strikes.
A humanitarian catastrophe has unfolded as basic supplies like food and water run out and shelling displaces civilians from their homes.
Israel’s military has said it has evidence that Hamas uses Al Shifa and other hospitals such as the Indonesian Hospital to hide command posts and entry points to an extensive tunnel network under Gaza.
It says it does not target civilians, and it has allowed some wounded Palestinian civilians to cross into Egypt for treatment.
But Israel’s military advance on central Gaza City, which brought tanks within about 1.2 kilometre (3/4 mile) of Al Shifa, according to residents, has raised questions about how Israel will interpret international laws on protecting medical centres and displaced people sheltering there. (Reuters/NAN)