(Daily Mail) Israeli soldiers have stormed Gaza City’s main hospital to root out the Hamas terrorists they say are hiding beneath the medical facility in an underground command centre.
Dozens of Israeli soldiers, some wearing face masks and firing guns in the air, entered the sprawling Al-Shifa hospital early Wednesday morning in a ‘precise and targeted operation against Hamas in a specified area’ of the facility, the IDF said, in what could be a pivotal moment in the bloody war.
‘All men 16 years and above, r+aise your hands,’ a soldier shouted in accented Arabic through a loudspeaker to the thousands sheltering inside. ‘Exit the building towards the courtyard and surrender,’ the soldier ordered, according to a journalist trapped inside.
About 1,000 male Palestinians, their hands above their heads, were soon led into the vast hospital courtyard, some of them stripped naked by Israeli soldiers checking them for weapons or explosives, the journalist told AFP.
Israeli soldiers and tanks had surrounded the hospital in recent days, where the IDF and US have insisted Hamas are hiding in underground tunnels beneath the building and using the patients as human shields – claims the terrorists deny.
But the storming of the hospital is a key moment in the war and will show once and for all whether Hamas terrorists have indeed based their secret headquarters underneath the hospital while using the most vulnerable civilians as human shields.
The move to enter the sprawling hospital by Israeli forces could see civilians, patients and doctors in the middle of the fierce battles, prompting the UN to say it was ‘appalled’ by Israel’s decision to raid the medical facility.
Israeli soldiers inside a military vehicle are seen on their way to storm the Al Shifa hospital in this picture released by the IDF
Israeli soldiers with rifles storm the Al Shifa hospital and are pictured here within the complex on Wednesday
This handout picture released by the Israeli army on Thursday shows soldiers during a military operation around at Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City involving tanks
Footage released by the IDF this morning shows dozens of tanks rolling down the streets towards the hospital
Footage shows Israeli tanks parked outside hospital and scores of Israeli soldiers storming building
The IDF said Israeli troops delivered medical supplies to the Al Shifa hospital as pictured here
At Al-Shifa, doctors said patients and people taking shelter were stranded in horrific conditions in the facility
Israeli soldiers take part in an operation amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, at a location given as Al-Shati, Gaza, on Tuesday
The Al-Shifa hospital, which the World Health Organisation has said is turning into a ‘cemetery’, has been a primary target for Israeli troops in their battle to seize control of the northern half of the Gaza Strip. Medics and the hundreds of civilians trapped inside have told how newborn babies and patients are dying for lack of fuel.
Now, Israeli tanks have rolled into the medical compound while scores of soldiers and commandos stormed buildings including the emergency and surgery departments, which house intensive care units, as patients screamed in terror, medics trapped inside said.
Footage released by the IDF this morning shows dozens of tanks rolling down the streets towards the hospital and scores of soldiers emerging from the vehicles before they entered the building. Israel claimed other video showed soldiers delivering medical supplies to the hospital.
As Israeli forces raced through the corridors, hundreds of young men emerged from different wards, including the maternity section, which was hit in a strike a few days ago, a journalist trapped inside reported.
Soldiers were firing warning shots as they moved from room to room looking for Hamas terrorists, he said, adding that the troops were also searching women and children, some of whom were in tears.
After sharp warnings from the US and others that Al-Shifa must be protected, Israel said the raid was being executed based on ‘an operational necessity’.
Their aim will be to enter the 300 mile network of tunnels the IDF and US intelligence say are underneath the hospital to annihilate the terrorists who rampaged through Israel and slaughtered 1,200 Israelis. They will also be searching for some of the 240 people who were taken hostage by Hamas on October 7.
But that is no easy task. Subterranean fighting is notoriously lethal work, especially when Israeli soldiers are fighting against heavily armed Hamas terrorists who know every hiding place and have access to a stash of rockets, grenades and guns.
The terrorists have operated within the complex network of reinforced tunnels underneath civilian buildings for years, some of which are buried up to 40ft underground and all of which could conceal an ambush, be booby-trapped – or worse – filled with explosives and primed to cave in.
This means the Israeli military will have to draw on a variety of technology and weaponry – like ‘killer’ drones, attack dogs and ‘sponge’ bombs – to help their soldiers ‘destroy’ the terrorists deep within the tunnels.
This is a key moment in the war after weeks of conflicting claims about what lies underneath Al Shifa hospital, where hundreds of patients, including newborns, have been stranded with dwindling supplies and no electricity.
Mohammed Zaqout, the director of hospitals in Gaza, said the patients who are trapped inside the medical facility are terrified after they saw the heavily armed soldiers storm the hospital in the early hours of this morning.
‘They are screaming, it’s a very terrifying situation. We can do nothing but pray,’ Zaquot said.
Meanwhile, in a sign of how bleak the situation is in the hospital, the head of the WHO said it had lost touch with health personnel trapped inside after Israeli soldiers began raiding the facility.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: ‘We’ve lost touch again with health personnel at the hospital. We’re extremely worried for their and their patients’ safety.
In separate comments, U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths said on Wednesday he was ‘appalled’ by reports of the raids.
‘The protection of newborns, patients, medical staff and all civilians must override all other concerns,’ he wrote on X. ‘Hospitals are not battlegrounds.’
Griffiths stressed in a separate video statement that he understood Israel wanted to find Hamas leaders, but insisted that was no excuse for turning hospitals into a battlefield.
‘Hamas must not, should not, use a place like a hospital as a shield for their presence,’ he said.
As the Israeli soldiers launched their raid of the hospital, they killed several Hamas terrorists during intense battles, the IDF said.