February 24, 2024

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Israeli forces continue to comb Gaza’s largest hospital, expand raids

Jerusalem : Israeli forces have continued to comb Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa, expanding their searches for hostages and militant activity to other hospitals in the area, while all communications have collapsed across the besieged enclave due to the depletion of fuel.

During the searches on Thursday, “an underground tunnel shaft has been found beneath the hospital”, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Daniel Hagari said in a press briefing on Thursday night.

He said a vehicle with “many ammunition” was also found below the medical centre, reports Xinhua news agency.

Beneath the Rantisi Hospital, “a complex web of tunnels was found”.

“This is a combat area, where our forces are still fighting (with militants,)” said Hagari, adding that “many weapons” were also found at the Al-Quds Hospital.

At the briefing, he presented photos showing automatic weapons, hand grenades and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).

Earlier, the army announced that the remains of Yehudit Weiss, an Israeli woman who was abducted by Hamas militants on October 7, were extracted by IDF troops from “a structure adjacent to the Al-Shifa Hospital”.

The body was transferred to Israeli territory.

It was the second time that Israeli forces raided Al-Shifa Hospital.

On Wednesday, the army released photos of some automatic weapons, RPGs and hand grenades that they said were found in the building but have not provided evidence for a central Hamas military headquarters, which Israel repeatedly claims is concealed below the medical compound.

Al-Shifa’s Director Muhammad Abu Salamiya told Al Jazeera TV news that snipers surrounding the hospital had prevented medical staff from moving between the buildings.

Troops stormed the hospital’s departments, where there were more than 650 inpatients, 500 medical personnel, and 5,000 displaced people seeking shelter.

At least four patients who urgently needed dialysis were in “a critical condition” due to the damage to medical services.

Gaza is in desperate need of medical supply as Israel cut off the enclave from electricity, water, food and fuel.

The Hamas-controlled enclave’s main telecom provider Paltel announced on social media platform X a total blackout, including all internet and telephone services, after “all energy sources sustaining the network have been depleted, and fuel was not allowed in”.

Also on Thursday, Hamas’s armed wing al-Qassam brigades claimed responsibility for a deadly shooting attack in the morning at a checkpoint between Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Three gunmen opened fire at Israeli security forces, killing an armed police officer and wounding five others, before being shot dead by other forces, Israeli police said.

The police found in their vehicle two automatic rifles, two guns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, 10 magazines, and two axes.

The IDF said Israeli warplanes on Thursday struck the residence of Hamas politburo head Ismail Haniyeh that was allegedly used as “terrorist infrastructure” and often served as a meeting place for Hamas’ senior leaders.

The Israeli forces also took over the Al-Shati refugee camp and Gaza’s harbour, the military said.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said on Thursday it was unable to respond to hundreds of calls to help and evacuate the wounded or those trapped under the rubble, while people fleeing from the northern strip are reporting the presence of dead bodies in the streets.

The PRCS also said that the Israeli army imposed a siege on the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital using tanks and military vehicles, preventing ambulance teams from reaching the wounded.

According to the Red Crescent, the hospital is the only one still operating in Gaza City and its northern areas.

As of Friday morning, the death toll in Gaza stood at 11,078, of whom 4,506 were said to be children and 3,027 women.

In Israel, more than 1,200 people have died, while the fatality toll in the West Bank has increased to 198.

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