Palestine Red Crescent says four Gaza hospitals attacked in 24 hours

Palestinians flee to the southern Gaza Strip via Salah al-Din Street in Bureij, Gaza Strip on Nov 10, 2023. [AP Photo]

The head of the Palestine Red Crescent Society said Friday that four hospitals in the northern part of the Gaza Strip had been hit in the past 24 hours, accusing Israel of deliberately targeting them in an attempt to force Palestinian civilians out of Gaza.

"The health sector in Gaza is under attack," Marwan Jilani, director general of the Palestine Red Crescent Society, told a meeting of the United Nations Security Council in a remote briefing.

Jilani said the hospitals — Al-Shifa, Al-Awda,  Al-Quds and the Indonesian Hospital — had all come under fire. At Al-Quds in Gaza City, he said one person died and 20 others were injured. In addition to tending patients, the hospitals have become refuges for tens of thousands of Gazans seeking safety.

"I'm calling upon the council members on behalf of the staff and volunteers, the emergency medical teams and the doctors and nurses besieged in Gaza's hospitals, to do all you can to spare further death and suffering," Jilani said.

Jilani warned that at Al-Quds hospital, the main generator shut down two days ago because of a lack of fuel. Jilani said 14,000 displaced persons are sheltering there in addition to the 400 sick and wounded patients.

"Right now, there is a very serious risk that we will lose all the patients in the intensive care units and those children in incubators," the Red Crescent chief said.

Health system 'on its knees'

Israeli army officials allege that Hamas hides weapons in tunnels under hospitals and has set up a command center beneath Al-Shifa, Gaza's largest hospital, making the buildings a legitimate military target. Hamas and hospital staff deny this.

The Israel Defense Forces denied firing on Al-Shifa on Friday and accused Hamas of firing a rocket aimed at Israeli troops that hit the hospital instead.

The head of the World Health Organization told council members that Gaza's health system "is on its knees" with 18 of 36 hospitals and two-thirds of its primary health centers not functioning at all.

"The situation on the ground is impossible to describe," Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. "Hospital corridors crammed with the injured, the sick, the dying; morgues overflowing; surgery without anesthesia; tens of thousands of displaced people sheltering at hospitals; families crammed into overcrowded schools, desperate for food and water."

He said that, on average, a child is killed every 10 minutes in Gaza, and he appealed for a cease-fire.

Nearly 4,500 children killed in Gaza

More than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed — including 4,500 children — in Israeli strikes on Gaza since October 7, the health ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza said Friday.

The U.N. children's agency, UNICEF, said Friday that medical care at Al-Rantisi and Al-Nasr children's hospitals has reportedly nearly stopped, with only a small generator powering their intensive care and neonatal units.

Israel launched its offensive in response to Hamas' October 7 terror attack in southern Israel. Officials have said that 1,400 people, mostly civilians, were killed. On Friday, the foreign ministry lowered the toll to about 1,200.

"This is the updated number," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lior Haiat told AFP. "It is due to the fact that there were a lot of corpses that were not identified and now we think those belong to terrorists ... not Israeli casualties."

Hamas also took about 240 people hostage. The U.S., U.K., EU and several other Western countries have designated Hamas a terrorist organization.

Israel pauses military operation for four hours daily

The White House said Thursday that Israel would start implementing daily four-hour pauses in its military operation against Hamas in areas of northern Gaza.

The pauses are intended to give Palestinians time to evacuate south along two humanitarian corridors. The U.N. says more than 50,000 people fled south on Thursday on foot or in donkey carts, and 80,000 overall since Sunday.

But the possibility of longer humanitarian truces to get aid in and evacuate the seriously wounded appears dim.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Fox News on Thursday that he is not interested in a cease-fire.

"A cease-fire with Hamas means surrender," he said.

'Much more needs to be done'

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that "much more needs to be done to protect civilians and to make sure that humanitarian assistance reaches them" in the Gaza Strip.

Speaking to reporters in New Delhi as he wrapped up an intense nine-day diplomatic tour of the Middle East and Asia, Blinken said Israel's recent military pauses are positive, but not nearly enough.

"Far too many" Palestinians have died and suffered as Israel wages a relentless war against the militant Hamas group in Gaza, he said.

Speaking at the U.N., the U.S. envoy said Hamas' "cowardly tactics" of hiding behind human shields and beneath hospitals does not diminish Israel's responsibility to protect civilians under international law.

"Rules like proportionality and precaution still apply," Deputy U.N. Ambassador Robert Wood told the Security Council. "And the risks of harm to civilians at sites that Hamas is using for military purpose absolutely have to be considered when planning an operation."

On Saturday, Saudi Arabia will host an extraordinary summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to discuss the situation in Gaza.