- Recent Developments:
- The Hamas armed wing released 70 hostages in exchange for a 5-day ceasefire
- The Israeli military released video and photos showing a cache of Hamas weapons in the hospital’s basement
- White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Washington would like to see significantly longer pauses in the release of hostages — days, not hours.
GAZA/JERUSALEM, Nov 13 (Reuters) – Israeli tanks advanced on Monday toward the gates of Gaza City’s main hospital, a key target in Israel’s war against Hamas, as U.S. President Joe Biden said hospitals must be protected so he hopes there are fewer Israelis infiltrating. action.
Separately, the Palestinian militant group’s armed wing said it was willing to release 70 women and children detained in Gaza in exchange for a five-day ceasefire in the war, which was sparked by Hamas’ October 7 attack in southern Israel.
Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qitra, who was inside Al Shifa Hospital, said 32 patients, including three babies born in the past three days, had died due to the hospital siege and lack of electricity in northern Gaza.
At least 650 patients were still inside, desperate to be evacuated to another medical facility. Israel says the hospital sits atop a tunnel that houses the headquarters of Hamas militants who use patients as shields, a claim Hamas denies.
“There are tanks in front of the hospital. We are in full lockdown. This is a completely civilian area. There are only patients, doctors and other civilians in the hospital. Someone has to stop this,” one of the hospital’s surgeons, Dr. Ahmed El Mogallalati, said by phone. “We barely survive.”
In his first comments since the weekend’s events, including the deaths of patients at Shifa Hospital, Biden said hospitals must be protected.
“My hope and expectation is that there will be a less invasive operation compared to the hospitals, and we’re in touch with the Israelis,” Biden told reporters at the White House.
“And there’s an effort to get this moratorium to deal with the release of the prisoners, and that’s being negotiated with the Qataris … in the engagement,” he added. “So I’m somewhat optimistic, but hospitals need to be protected.”
Israel launched its campaign last month to destroy Hamas, the Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip, which is officially dedicated to Israel’s destruction after Hamas gunmen massacred civilians in southern Israel.
An Israeli count says about 1,200 people were killed in the attack and 240 were taken hostage to Gaza.
Thousands of Gazans have since been killed and two-thirds of the population has been made homeless by Israeli military action. Israel has ordered the evacuation of northern Gaza.
Gaza medical officials say more than 11,000 people have been killed, 40% of them children.
Israel says Hamas hospitals serve as military facilities, and Israel’s military released video and photos on Monday showing the group storing weapons in the basement of Rantisi Hospital, a children’s hospital specializing in cancer treatment.
Hostages for a ceasefire?
Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ armed wing, posted an audio recording on its Telegram channel saying the group was willing to release some hostages in exchange for a five-day ceasefire, an offer Israel is unlikely to accept.
“The enemy has asked for the release of 100 women and children captured in Gaza, but we told the mediators that we can release 50 of them in five days of fighting and the number will reach 70 due to the difficulty of the captives. They are being held by different factions,” said Abu Ubaydah, a spokesman for al-Qassam Brigades in Israel. Specifies the request.
Qatari mediators last week sought the release of some women and children as hostages in exchange for Israel’s release of 200 Palestinian children and 75 women, the spokesman said.
“The ceasefire must include a complete ceasefire and allow aid and humanitarian relief everywhere in the Gaza Strip,” he said.
White House national security adviser Jack Sullivan told reporters that Washington would like to see “significantly longer pauses — days, not hours — behind the release of hostages.”
Another U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the release of dozens of hostages could lead to a multi-day standoff, adding that negotiations are very delicate.
Israel, which effectively besieges Gaza, rejected the cease-fire, arguing that Hamas would use it to regroup, but allowed brief humanitarian “pauses” that allowed food and other supplies to flow in and allowed foreigners to flee.
Fighting also took place on Monday at al-Quds, the second largest hospital in northern Gaza, which remains out of action. The Palestinian Red Cross said the hospital was surrounded by heavy gunfire and a convoy sent to evacuate patients and staff was unable to reach it.
Israel said it killed “about 21 terrorists” in al-Quds after militants fired from the hospital entrance. It released footage showing a group of men at the hospital gate, one of whom appeared to be carrying a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
In a sign of Israel’s advance in Gaza, the country’s Channel 12 television broadcast a photo of soldiers carrying Israeli flags in the Gaza parliament chamber. Israeli Defense Minister Israel Katz X posted on social media a “symbol of the Hamas regime in Gaza” in the hands of Israeli soldiers.
Israel’s military and security services said they had killed several Hamas commanders and officers in the last day, including Mohammed Qamis Tababash, whom they described as Hamas’s former head of military intelligence.
Hamas media reported that an Israeli airstrike on the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza killed more than 30 people and wounded many others. An Israeli military spokesman said the military was verifying the report about Jabaliya.
In Israel, sirens rang out in the center of the country and in the city of Tel Aviv on Monday night, as Hamas’ armed wing said on its Telegram account that it had fired missiles at Tel Aviv.
There was also renewed concern that the war could spread beyond Gaza, with an uptick in clashes along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon and US airstrikes targeting Iran-linked militants in neighboring Syria.
Hospital in the heart of wars
In Al Shifa, Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Kitra said Israeli snipers and drones were firing into the hospital, leaving doctors and patients unable to move.
Israel has told civilians to evacuate and doctors to send patients elsewhere. It says it tried to evacuate babies from the neo-natal ward and left 300 liters of fuel to power emergency generators at the hospital entrance, but the concessions were blocked by Hamas.
Chitra said Shifa needs 8,000-10,000 liters (2,100-2,600 gallons) of fuel per day from the Red Cross or an international agency.
Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Dan Williams and Reuters Bureau in Jerusalem; Written by Peter Graf, Toby Chopra and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Nick MacPhee, Christina Fincher and Howard Koller
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