Israel’s Military Raids Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital: Live Updates

Israeli forces using tanks and bulldozers raided Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza on Monday in an operation they said was aimed at senior Hamas officials who had regrouped at the medical facility, setting off an hourslong battle that both sides said had resulted in casualties.

The raid began before dawn, with the Israeli military’s chief spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, saying in a video statement that troops were operating in “limited areas” of the hospital complex. More than 12 hours later, Hamas’s military wing, the Qassam brigades, said that its forces were “engaged in fierce clashes with enemy forces” near the hospital.

The Israeli military said that Hamas fighters had shot at its soldiers from within the complex and soldiers had returned fire. The Gazan Health Ministry said Israeli forces had launched missiles at the complex and fired into surgery rooms. Details of the fighting could not be independently verified.

The Israeli military said that it had launched the raid based on new intelligence that Hamas officials were operating from the hospital, four months after Israeli forces stormed the complex and found a tunnel shaft they said supported their contention that the armed group had used it to conceal military operations. Since then, Israel has withdrawn many troops from northern Gaza and shifted the focus of its invasion to the south.

During the operation on Monday, Israel said its forces had killed 20 militants. Among those killed, it said, was a senior Hamas official it identified as Faiq Mabhouh, the head of operations for the internal security forces of the Hamas government in Gaza, who was “armed and hiding in a compound” at the hospital. Hamas did not confirm his death or role in the organization and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Israeli military also said one of its soldiers had been killed in the fighting at Al-Shifa.

Hamas, in the statement from its armed wing, claimed that it had caused “deaths and injuries” to Israeli forces, but did not provide evidence.

The hospital and the surrounding area house about 30,000 patients, medical workers and displaced civilians, and a number of people were killed and wounded in the raid, the Gazan Health Ministry said. It added that a fire had broken out at the gate of the complex, which caused some people to suffocate and made it difficult to reach those who were injured.

By midday, about 15 Israeli tanks and several bulldozers were inside the hospital grounds, said Alaa Abu al-Kaas, who was staying at the hospital to accompany her father who was being treated there.

“The fear and terror are really eating us alive,” she said in a phone call from a corridor of one of the hospital’s buildings where she was hiding. Her voice was barely audible amid loud booms and explosions.

Hedaya Al Tatar, who lives about a quarter-mile from the hospital, described hearing “intensive shooting and heavy shelling” starting at around 2 a.m., along with drone strikes.

Ms. al-Kaas, 19, said that around the same time, she heard shots and the sound of tanks before Israeli soldiers, using loudspeakers, ordered people in the complex to stay inside and close the windows. She said Israeli forces told people that they would be moved to the Al-Mawasi area in southern Gaza, although it was not immediately clear when or how they would be moved. Israel has sought to create a humanitarian “safe zone” in Al-Mawasi, although civilians have found little shelter there.

“We are just sitting here anxiously waiting for them to evacuate us out of here,” she said.

Ms. al-Kaas said that she had seen Israeli soldiers holding several people, their hands bound and clothes partially stripped off, in the courtyard of the hospital complex. She added that bodies of people who had apparently been shot were lying in the courtyard.

Israel has said that the hospital complex doubled as a secret Hamas military command center, calling it one of many examples of civilian facilities that Hamas uses to shield its activities. U.S. spy agencies have said that their own intelligence indicates that Hamas and another Palestinian group used Al-Shifa to command forces and hold some hostages.

Hamas has denied the accusations, and Israel came under criticism from health and humanitarian organizations after storming the hospital in November. Evidence examined by The New York Times suggests Hamas did use the hospital for cover and maintained a hardened tunnel beneath it that was supplied with water, power and air-conditioning. But the Israeli military has struggled to prove that Hamas maintained a command-and-control center under the facility.

“We know that senior Hamas terrorists have regrouped inside Al-Shifa Hospital and are using it to command attacks against Israel,” Mr. Hagari said on Monday. He added that there would be “no obligation” for staff and patients to evacuate, but said a passage would be provided for civilians to leave the hospital.

Myra Noveck and Abu Bakr Bashir contributed reporting.

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