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Israel-Hamas war: Heavy fighting rages near main Gaza hospital with people trapped inside

Children look on inside a damaged building following strikes on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday
Children look on inside a damaged building following strikes on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday Copyright MOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images
Copyright MOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images
By Saskia O'Donoghue with AP & AFP
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The latest developments from the Israel-Hamas war.

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Israeli strikes pounded Gaza City on Sunday as ground forces battled Hamas militants near the territory's largest hospital, where health officials say thousands of medics, patients and displaced people are trapped with no electricity and dwindling supplies.

Health officials and people inside the al-Shifa complex rejected Israel's claims that it was helping babies and others evacuate Sunday, they said fighting was continuing just outside the facility.

Doctors Without Borders has since said it has lost contact with staff at the al-Shifa hospital.

In a televised address on Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected growing international calls for a ceasefire unless it includes the release of all the nearly 240 hostages captured by Hamas in the 7 October rampage that triggered the war, saying Israel was bringing its “full force” to the battle.

Israel has vowed to end Hamas’ 16-year rule in Gaza and crush its military capabilities while blaming the militants for the war's heavy toll on the 2.3 million Palestinians trapped in the besieged territory.

Israel has come under mounting international pressure, even from its closest ally, the United States, as the war enters a sixth week.

A 57-nation gathering of Muslim and Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia on Saturday called for the war to end, and an estimated 300,000 pro-Palestinian protesters marched peacefully through London - the biggest demonstration in the city since the war began.

Pro-Palestine marchers on Vauxhall bridge road in London on Saturday
Pro-Palestine marchers on Vauxhall bridge road in London on SaturdayGuy Smallman/Getty

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has raised the possibility of a potential deal to free hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip during an interview with NBC.

Netanyahu was asked about the possibility of an agreement concerning the women, children and elderly people taken hostage.

“Is there a potential agreement?” the journalist asked him. “There could be,” he replied, “but the less I express myself on the subject, the more I increase the chances that it will materialise,” he added, specifying that things were progressing thanks to Israeli military pressure.

There are 239 hostages still being held in Gaza - and Israel has refused to call a ceasefire until they are released.

Attacks by Lebanon's Hezbollah group wound six Israeli civilians

Attacks by Lebanon's Hezbollah group Sunday wounded seven Israeli troops and six civilians, Israel's military and rescue services said.

The clashes came as skirmishes between the Iran-backed group and the Israeli military continued to intensify along the Lebanon-Israel border, threatening to escalate into another front in the Mideast’s latest war.

The Israeli military said in a statement that "seven IDF soldiers were lightly injured as a result of the mortar shell launches in the area of Manara in northern Israel earlier today.” Israeli rescue services did not identify the location or provide information about the six others wounded by rocket blasts and shrapnel but said two of them were in critical condition.

Gaza hospital patients ‘forced’ onto streets

Patients "are in the streets without care" after the "forced evacuations" of two paediatric hospitals, the director of hospitals in the Hamas-held Gaza Strip has said, while the Israeli army claims it has "secured" passages for civilians.

“The forced evacuations of al-Nasr and al-Rantissi paediatric hospitals have left sick people on the streets without care” in Gaza City, Mohammed Zaqout said. “We have completely lost contact with the caregivers” at the two hospitals, he added.

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Across Gaza, Benjamin Netanyahu has assured that troops would assist in moving babies to safety on Sunday and that the IDF was in contact with hospital staff.

The Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip, though, has denied claims of evacuees and safe corridors.​​

Gaza deputy health minister: Israeli strike destroys Shifa hospital building

The deputy health minister of the Hamas government in Gaza has told AFP that an Israeli airstrike had "completely destroyed" the heart disease department building at Shifa Hospital, the largest in the Gaza Strip shelled and besieged by Israel.

“The two-story building of the heart disease department was completely destroyed in an airstrike,” said Youssef Abou Rich, blaming the strike on the Israeli army.

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The AFP was not able to confirm this strike on site but at least one witness present in the hospital confirmed raids and damage.

The Israeli army did not immediately react.

“There was a new strike on the surgery department and the outpatient surgery department,” added the Palestinian official, reporting “five shells fired since the morning into the complex.”

“The (Israeli) tanks are completely besieging the Shifa hospital,” he said while the Israeli army describes as “false” the reports according to which its troops are “surrounding and hitting” al-Chifa.

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“They shoot at everyone who tries to leave all the buildings in the hospital complex,” Abou Rich also claimed. 

Erdogan calls for Washington to stop Israeli offensive

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on the United States to stop Israel's offensive in Gaza while stressing that there would be no agreement until Washington considers the territory as Palestinian land.

“We should talk with Egypt and the Gulf countries and put pressure on the United States,” Erdogan told Turkish journalists aboard his flight back from the Riyadh leaders summit.

"The United States should increase its pressure on Israel. The West should increase its pressure on Israel... It is vital for us to achieve a ceasefire," he said.

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“The most important country that needs to be involved is the United States, which has influence over Israel,” Erdogan insisted.

However, he clarified that he would not call on US President Joe Biden.

“We cannot agree with Mr. Biden if he approaches [the conflict] by considering Gaza as the land of the occupying settlers or of Israel, rather than the land of the Palestinian people,” he said.

“The European Union thinks exactly the same thing as Israel regarding Hamas. But we do not think like them,” Erdogan continued.

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"I consider Hamas to be a political party that won the elections in Palestine. I don't see things the same way as them," he added.

Meeting at a summit in Riyadh, the leaders of Arab and Muslim countries condemned on Saturday the "barbaric" actions of Israeli forces in Gaza but refrained from announcing punitive economic and political measures against Israel.

The results of the summit, bringing together the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), highlighted regional divisions over how to respond to the conflict, amid fears of an escalation in the region.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech as he attends the Darulaceze Social Services City Opening Ceremony in Arnavutkoy district of Istanbul
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech as he attends the Darulaceze Social Services City Opening Ceremony in Arnavutkoy district of IstanbulMurat Kula/Anadolu via Getty Images

Evacuations from Gaza to Egypt have resumed, 500 dual nationals evacuated

Some 500 foreigners and dual nationals, as well as wounded Palestinians, have been evacuated from the Gaza Strip to Egypt, reports from both sides of the border confirm.

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“Five hundred foreign passport holders from 15 different countries entered Egypt,” an Egyptian security service official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The Alqahera News channel reported that "seven injured Palestinians" had also been authorised to cross the terminal, which was closed on Friday and Saturday.

The authority in charge of the borders within the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip had called on Saturday evening for "all holders of foreign passports and people registered on the evacuation lists" to present themselves at the terminal, located at the southern tip of the Gaza Strip and which leads towards the Egyptian Sinai.

Since 1 November, dozens of wounded Palestinians have been evacuated to Egyptian hospitals. Hundreds of dual nationals and foreigners, notably Americans, French, and Germans have also crossed through Rafah.

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The terminal, however, has not been able to open every day, with Hamas demanding security guarantees for ambulances carrying wounded people to be evacuated after the bombing of one of them by the Israeli army.

Among the people evacuated on Sunday from Gaza via Rafah were Poles whose number was not specified as well as 101 Romanians and 60 Russians.

People present their travel documents to be checked at the terminal on the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday
People present their travel documents to be checked at the terminal on the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip on SundayMOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images

UN agency announces 'significant number' of casualties in strike on Gaza headquarters

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has announced "a significant number of deaths and injuries" in the "bombing" late on Saturday of its headquarters in Gaza City, evacuated by its employees and now occupied by hundreds of displaced Palestinians.

“The ongoing tragedy of civilian deaths and injuries trapped in this conflict... must end,” the UNDP said in a statement. “Civilians, civilian infrastructure and the inviolability of UN premises must be respected and protected at all times.”

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AFPTV images on Sunday also show a crater in the middle of the courtyard of a school run by the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in Beit Lahia, in the north of the Gaza Strip.

UNRWA announced on Friday that more than 100 of its employees had died in the Gaza Strip since the start of the war.

Civilians injured after shooting from Lebanon - army

Several civilians have been injured in Israel by an anti-tank missile that fell in the north of the country, the Israeli army has announced, saying they responded by targeting the origin of the missile in southern Lebanon.

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According to the army, it hit a vehicle near the border town of Dovev and "a number of civilians were injured".

“The artillery hits the source of the fire,” it added in a statement.

Israel Electric Corporation said the missile "hit workers" repairing power lines damaged by other recent strikes in the area.

Exchanges of fire between the Israeli army and armed groups in Lebanon have been almost daily for weeks, while on the country's southern border, Israeli troops are waging war against the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

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Al-Quds Hospital no longer operational - Palestine Red Crescent Society

The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has announced that al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City is no longer operational due to a lack of fuel and a power outage.

“PRCS holds the international community and signatories of the Fourth Geneva Convention accountable for the complete breakdown of the health system and the resulting dire humanitarian conditions,” PRCS wrote on X - formerly Twitter.

The situation in and around Shifa Hospital worsens

In Gaza City, residents reported heavy airstrikes and shelling overnight, including in the area around Shifa Hospital. Israel, without providing evidence, has accused Hamas of concealing a command post inside and under the hospital compound, allegations denied by Hamas and hospital staff.

“We spent the night in panic waiting for their arrival,” said Ahmed al-Boursh, a resident taking shelter in the hospital. “They are outside, not far from the gates.”

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The hospital's last generator ran out of fuel on Saturday, causing the death of a premature baby, another child in an incubator and four other patients, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

It says another 37 babies are at risk of death because there's no electricity.

Health Ministry under-secretary Munir al-Boursh said Israeli snipers have deployed around Shifa, firing at any movement inside the compound. He said airstrikes had destroyed several homes next to the hospital, killing a doctor, his son and his son-in-law.

“There are wounded in the house, and we can’t reach them," he told Al Jazeera television in an interview from the hospital.

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Israel’s military had earlier confirmed clashes outside the hospital and said that on Sunday, troops would assist in moving babies to a safer location. The military says it is in contact with hospital staff.

The Health Ministry says there are 1,500 patients at Shifa, 1,500 medical personnel, and 15,000 and 20,000 people seeking shelter. Thousands have fled Shifa and other hospitals that have come under attack, but physicians said it’s impossible for everyone to get out.

Elsewhere, the Palestinian Red Crescent said Israeli tanks were 20 metres (65 feet) from al-Quds hospital in Gaza City, causing “extreme panic and fear” among the 14,000 displaced people sheltering there.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu (R) in Tel Aviv, Israel earlier this month
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu (R) in Tel Aviv, Israel earlier this monthAmos Ben-Gershom (GPO)/handout/Anadolu via Getty Images

Netanyahu rejects US post-war vision

Benjamin Netanyahu has said the responsibility for any harm to civilians lies with Hamas. Israel has long accused the group, which operates in dense residential neighbourhoods, of using civilians as human shields.

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The Israeli military said that during a battle in Gaza City, its forces helped clear a corridor for civilians to exit a building before coming under fire. The troops returned fire, killing the militants, it said.

On Saturday, Netanyahu began to outline Israel's postwar plans for Gaza, which contrast sharply with the vision put forth by the United States.

Netanyahu said Gaza would be demilitarised and that Israel would retain security control, with the ability to enter Gaza freely to hunt down militants. He also rejected the idea that the Palestinian Authority (PA), which currently administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, would at some stage control Gaza. Hamas drove the PA's forces out of Gaza in a week of street battles in 2007.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the US opposes an Israeli reoccupation of Gaza and envisions a unified Palestinian government in both Gaza and the West Bank as a step toward Palestinian statehood. Even before the war, Netanyahu's government was staunchly opposed to that prospect.

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In another sign of international frustration with Israel, Saudi Arabia welcomed Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi on Saturday in the first such visit since the two countries mended ties this year. Israel views Iran as its main enemy and had sought to normalise relations with Saudi Arabia before the outbreak of the war.

Evacuation windows - but still no pauses

Israel’s allies have defended the country’s right to protect itself after the Hamas attack, which killed at least 1,200 people, mostly civilians. But now into the second month of war, there are growing differences over how Israel should conduct its fight.

The US has pushed for temporary pauses which would allow for wider distribution of badly needed aid to civilians in the besieged territory where conditions are increasingly dire. However, Israel has only agreed to brief daily periods during which civilians can flee the area of ground combat in northern Gaza and head south on foot along two main north-south roads.

Since these evacuation windows were first announced a week ago, tens of thousands of civilians have fled the north. Israel is still striking what it says are militant targets across central and southern Gaza as well, often killing women and children.

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Palestinians including injured people leave their homes to escape Israel's bombardments to reach southern part of the city in Gaza City
Palestinians including injured people leave their homes to escape Israel's bombardments to reach southern part of the city in Gaza CityBelal Khaled/Anadolu via Getty Images

The war has displaced over two-thirds of Gaza's population, with most fleeing south. Egypt has allowed hundreds of foreign passport holders and medical patients to exit through its Rafah crossing. It has also allowed hundreds of trucks loaded with food and medicine - but no fuel - to enter, but aid workers say it's nowhere near enough to meet the mounting needs.

More than 11,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and minors, have been killed since the war began, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza, which does not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths. About 2,700 people have been reported missing and are thought to be trapped or dead under the rubble.

Forty-six Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza since the ground offensive began, and Palestinians have continued firing rockets into Israel. Hamas is still holding 239 captives - men, women and children - after releasing four women last month. A fifth captive was rescued by Israeli forces.

Late on Saturday, thousands of Israelis participated in a rally in Tel Aviv, calling for the return of hostages. In Caesarea, hundreds of protesters gathered near Netanyahu's home, calling for his removal from office.

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About 250,000 Israelis have been forced to evacuate from communities near Gaza and along the northern border with Lebanon, where Israeli forces and Hezbollah militants have traded fire repeatedly.

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