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Israel pressed over Gaza deaths
Published on: Sunday, November 12, 2023
By: AFP
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Israel pressed over Gaza deaths
Palestinians families fleeing Gaza City and other parts of northern Gaza towards the southern areas. The fighting has killed more than 11,000 people, also mostly civilians and many of them children.
GAZA STRIP: Israel faced growing calls Saturday to protect civilians in Gaza as combat with Hamas intensified around hospitals where Palestinians have sought refuge from intense bombardment and gun battles.

The director of the besieged territory’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa, said the compound was struck repeatedly overnight Friday-Saturday and lost power for hours after its generator was hit.

“We received calls about dozens of dead and hundreds wounded in air and artillery strikes, but our ambulances weren’t able to go out because of gunfire,” said hospital director Mohammad Abu Salmiya.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said that one person was killed and several others wounded in a strike on Al-Shifa early Saturday, a day after Palestinians reported multiple people killed and wounded as fighting raged.

Israel has denied targeting hospitals and its army has accused Hamas of using the medical facilities as command centres and hideouts, a charge the Palestinian militant group which rules Gaza denies.

The suffering and death in Gaza has prompted growing calls for a halt in five weeks of fighting in order to protect civilian lives in the densely populated territory.

French President Emmanuel Macron called on Israel to stop bombing civilians in Gaza, saying there was “no justification” and the deaths were causing “resentment”.

In an interview with the BBC broadcast Friday, Macron said Israel had the right to protect itself after the Hamas attacks, but he added: “These babies, these ladies, these old people are bombed and killed.”

Hamas fighters smashed through the militarised border on October 7, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking about 240 people hostage, according to updated Israeli figures.

The Gaza health ministry says Israeli fighting has killed more than 11,000 people, also mostly civilians and many of them children.

Concern over the civilian toll has also come from staunch ally Washington, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying Friday: “Far too many Palestinians have been killed.”

A summit meeting Saturday between Islamic and Arab leaders and Iran’s president in the Saudi capital was expected to underscore demands that Israel’s war in Gaza end before the violence draws in other countries.

Aid agency Doctors Without Borders said it was “extremely concerned” about the safety of patients and medical staff at Al-Shifa hospital.

“Over the last few hours, the attacks against Al-Shifa Hospital have dramatically intensified,” it said in a statement posted online on Saturday morning.

“Our staff at the hospital have reported a catastrophic situation inside just a few hours ago.”

In the Shifa hospital courtyard, the boom of explosions echoed around Mohammed Rihane as he walked on crutches for his injured leg.

“People are dying, torn to shreds in the streets and we can’t go and look for them,” he said. Moving around the city remains incredibly dangerous.

Twenty of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are “no longer functioning”, the UN’s humanitarian agency said.

The Israeli military says its troops are in the heart of Gaza City, battling Hamas, noting its forces would kill Hamas militants if they saw them “firing from hospitals”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in response to Macron’s comments that Hamas, not Israel, was to blame for the civilian deaths.

Netanyahu repeated that Israel was trying to avoid harming civilians but that Hamas was preventing them from moving to safe areas and using them as “human shields”—a charge Hamas denies.

Israel’s military said its 401st Brigade had killed about 150 “terrorists” and gained control over Hamas strongholds in northern Gaza.

Palestinians reported strikes or sniper fire at two hospitals and a school in Gaza on Friday.

The bodies of 50 people killed in a strike on Gaza City’s Al-Buraq school were taken to the Al-Shifa hospital, its director said.

The toll could not be independently verified, though corpses covered by blankets were visible lying in the hospital courtyard.

After five weeks of conflict, the Gazan health system is “on its knees”, the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told the UN Security Council.

The International Committee of the Red Cross echoed his comments: “Overstretched, running on thin supplies and increasingly unsafe, the health care system in Gaza has reached a point of no return.”

Fighting has reduced some streets in the city to ruins, as the sound of heavy gunfire, explosions and the buzz of Israeli military drones as night fell.

The sounds of apparent explosions and gunfire could be heard throughout Saturday morning via AFPTV’s Gaza City camera, as smoke rose into the sky.

Tens of thousands of people have fled to the south of Gaza in recent days, often on foot and taking only the things they could carry.

Almost 1.6 million people have been internally displaced since October 7, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said—about two thirds of Gaza’s population.

But the UN estimates tens of thousands of civilians remain in the fiercest battle zones in the north.

Complicating Israel’s military push is the fate of the hostages abducted on October 7.

Four captives have been freed so far by Hamas and another rescued in an Israeli operation. The desperate relatives of those still held in Gaza have pressured Israeli and US authorities to secure the release of their loved ones.

The conflict has also stoked regional tensions, with deadly cross-border exchanges between the Israeli army and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement. 

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