Israel ‘expanding operations’ in Gaza as strip’s main hospital ‘evacuated and schools hit’

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Israel has said it “continues expanding its operational activities” in Gaza, as Palestinians in the south of Gaza were advised to relocate and the Hamas-run health ministry said the strip’s largest hospital had been evacuated by Israeli troops.

The Israel Defence Forces said it was fighting Hamas militants in the Zeitoun neighbourhood of Gaza City and on the outskirts of Jabaliya, the vast refugee camp home to one of two schools allegedly hit by Israeli airstrikes on Saturday and causing scores of fatalities, including children.

Footage appeared to show dozens of bodies at the UN-run al Fakhoura school, where thousands of people had been sheltering from Israel’s onslaught on the densely-populated Gaza Strip, while another school was hit further north in Beit Lahiya. The IDF said it was looking into the reports.

Artillery shelling by the Israeli army towards the Jabaliya refugee camp is seen on Friday


“The scenes of carnage and death following attacks on al Fakhoura and Tal al Zaatar schools in Gaza killing many children and women are horrific and appalling,” said Unicef’s regional director Adele Khodr, who said “many children and women” had been killed.

Meanwhile, hundreds of those left in Gaza’s largest hospital – al Shifa – evacuated the medical facility days after it was stormed by Israel’s military, which claim a Hamas headquarters lies underneath – of which it is yet to provide conclusive evidence.

“We left at gunpoint,” one patient who left the crowded hospital with his family told the Associated Press. “Tanks and snipers were everywhere inside and outside.” He said he saw Israeli forces detain three men, amid reports evacuees were searched and face-scanned while leaving.

A skeleton crew of just five doctors and some nurses were left to treat some 125 of an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 war-wounded or ill patients previously at the hospital, along with 34 newborn babies, said Palestinian health minister Mai al-Kaila.

According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, whose estimates the UN deems credible, at least 12,000 Palestinians – 5,000 of them children – have now been killed since Israel’s onslaught began on 7 October, in immediate retaliation for Hamas’s shock incursion in which militants killed 1,200 Israelis and took 240 hostage.

Palestinians searched for survivors after an Israeli strike on the Nusseirat refugee camp on Friday

(AP Photo/Marwan Saleh)

As Israel’s invasion of north Gaza continues, a senior aide to prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged Palestinian civilians on Friday to relocate away from southern Khan Younis – suggesting an Israeli ground offensive into the south was imminent.

But in spite of further reports of Israel dropping leaflets urging people in southern Gaza to evacuate, as happened a month earlier, prior to the vast displacement of residents in the north, an IDF spokesperson denied to Sky News that either southern residents or al Shifa patients had been told to evacuate.

A day earlier, Palestinian medics said Israeli forces surrounded a hospital in the West Bank, while up to five people were killed in an airstrike on the city of Jenin overnight.

Staff at Ibn Sina hospital told The Independent that paramedics were ordered to leave the building by the military, though many refused to comply. The Israeli military said it had exchanged fire with militants who had then used ambulances to flee to hospitals to “hide there”.

Abeer Al-Kilani, a marketing officer at Ibn Sina hospital said: “The army was surrounding the hospital and called the paramedics to the emergency door.”

“Many areas were besieged,” she continued. “Including the Ibn Sina Hospital area, the Jenin Governmental Hospital area and the Al-Amal Hospital. It hindered the work of medical teams.”

German chancellor Olaf Scholz criticised Israel’s settlement policy in the occupied West Bank on Saturday, and said that the best outcome remains a two-state solution. “If some in Israeli politics distance themselves from this, we will not support them,” Mr Scholz warned.

“We don’t want any new settlements in the West Bank, no violence by settlers against the Palestinians in the West Bank,” Mr Scholz said during a visit to Brandenburg.

Meanwhile, the families of Israeli hostages and thousands of supporters arrived in Jerusalem on Saturday at the end of a five-day march to confront the government over the plight of those taken captive by Hamas.

Protesters called for the release of Hamas hostages outside Benjamin Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem

(GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP via Getty Images)

The estimated 20,000 marchers, including well-wishers who joined the procession along the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, sought to pressure Israel’s government “to do everything they can to bring the hostages back,” said Noam Alon, 25, clutching a photograph of his abducted girlfriend, Inbar.

Many relatives and friends of the missing fear they will come to harm in Israeli attacks on Gaza, and blame their government for being blindsided by Hamas’s attack. The government insists that its offensive improves the chances of recovering hostages, perhaps via a mediated prisoner exchange.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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