Israel’s military launched an overnight raid on Gaza’s largest hospital

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Displaced Palestinians gather in the yard of Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital on Dec. 10, 2023. The hospital, Gaza’s largest, war raided by the Israeli military early on Monday.

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Displaced Palestinians gather in the yard of Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital on Dec. 10, 2023. The hospital, Gaza’s largest, war raided by the Israeli military early on Monday.

AFP via Getty Images

TEL AVIV, Israel — The largest medical facility in Gaza, Al-Shifa Hospital, was the site of a raid by the Israeli military early Monday morning, with reports of gunshots, a fire breaking out on the complex and an unknown number of people injured and potentially killed.

The Israeli military said it was “operating to thwart terrorist activity in the Shifa hospital,” and carrying out “precise operational activity” in order to track senior Hamas terrorists allegedly inside the building, where displaced civilians have taken shelter.

“During the activity, terrorists opened fire at the troops from within the hospital. The troops responded with live fire and hits were identified. Our troops are continuing to operate in the area of the hospital,” the Israeli military said in a statement.

The Gaza Ministry of Health rejected the Israeli military’s claims, saying, “What the occupation forces are doing against Al-Shifa Medical Complex is a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.”

Al-Shifa was the territory’s main medical facility prior to the war, but has seen its operations drastically disrupted due to months of conflict. The surrounding area of Al-Shifa has been the site of fighting since the Israeli military launched its offensive in Gaza in response to the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on southern Israel. Twelve hundred people were killed in the attack, according to Israel. The Israeli assault on Gaza has killed more than 31,700 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.

The Al-Shifa complex was raided by Israeli forces in November 2023, when troops reported finding Hamas weapons. Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas of operating in tunnels under this, and other, hospitals in Gaza, and using doctors and patients as human shields.

Daniel Hagari, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, said in a video posted on social media early Monday that forces will conduct the operation with “caution and care” and “while ensuring the hospital continues its important functions.”

But Gaza’s Ministry of Health said that due to the raid, a fire broke out at the gate of the Al-Shifa medical complex, trapping and suffocating displaced women and children.

“Communications were cut off, and the displaced people were trapped inside the specialized surgery building and in the emergency reception in Building 8,” according to the ministry.

Alaa Al-Samuni, a doctor inside Al-Shifa, said Israeli forces requested people inside the complex be taken out into the street and that only doctors and the wounded in intensive care would be allowed to remain inside. Al-Samuni said through Ministry of Health channels that staff and doctors were trapped in the damaged emergency department with patients.

“We hold the Israeli occupation responsible for the lives of medical staff, patients and displaced people inside Al-Shifa Medical Complex,” the Ministry of Health continued in a statement.

Flyers signed by the Israeli military urging civilians to evacuate were dropped on top of Al-Shifa and the surrounding neighborhood. Locals in Gaza inside the medical complex shared the flyers with the media.

“To all those present and displaced in the Al-Rimal neighborhood and the displaced in Al-Shifa Hospital and its surroundings, you are present in a dangerous combat zone,” the translated flyer read. “The Israeli Defense Forces is working forcefully in the area of ​​your residence and presence to destroy the terrorist structure. In order to preserve your safety, the Israeli Defense Forces urges you to evacuate immediately westward, through Al-Rashid Street, and then head south to the humanitarian area in Al-Mawasi.”

In Hagari’s video statement, he said the Israeli military would provide a humanitarian effort to provide food, water and other supplies to civilians and hospital patients on the ground.

Jaclyn Diaz reported from Tel Aviv. Anas Baba contributed reporting in Rafah.