Hospitals Under Fire in Gaza as Conflict Intensifies

Smoke rises over Gaza as seen from Southern Israel, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian group Hamas, November 10, 2023. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

In a recent escalation of the ongoing conflict, several hospitals in Gaza City have reportedly been hit by Israeli airstrikes, raising grave concerns over civilian casualties and the plight of medical facilities in the war-torn region.

Iran Warns of Conflict Expansion

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian warned of an inevitable expansion of the conflict due to the intensity of the war on Gaza’s civilians. Speaking to his Qatari counterpart, Amir-Abdollahian expressed concerns over the potential destabilization of the Middle East, despite Washington’s diplomatic efforts and the deployment of U.S. naval forces in the eastern Mediterranean. Iranian state-run Press TV reported these comments following a telephone conversation between the two ministers.

Sitting on the edges of the Israel-Hamas war is what’s been called the Axis of Resistance, a loose coalition of Iran-backed entities, including Hezbollah, Hamas and the Houthis in Yemen. CBC chief correspondent Adrienne Arsenault breaks down the conditions that could cause the group to engage in a wider war and the firepower behind it.

Gaza Hospitals Targeted

The Israeli military campaign, entering its second month, has severely affected Gaza’s healthcare system. Palestinian officials and the Gaza Ministry of Health reported airstrikes on or near several hospitals, including Al-Shifa, the largest in Gaza City. Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra stated that the Al-Shifa hospital was hit, causing casualties. Israel, however, asserts that Hamas has concealed military infrastructure beneath hospitals, an allegation Hamas denies.

International Concerns and U.S. Response

The international community, including Human Rights Watch, has expressed grave concern about the safety of civilians and medical personnel. U.S. President Joe Biden emphasized Israel’s obligation to distinguish between terrorists and civilians and to comply with international law. Amidst the violence, the White House announced Israel’s agreement to pause military operations in parts of north Gaza for four hours daily, allowing civilian movement and potential hostage release.

Israeli forces drop smoke bombs, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Gaza City, November 9, 2023. REUTERS/Mohammed Al-Masri

Palestinian Officials Report Heavy Casualties

Palestinian officials reported over 10,000 deaths, with approximately 40% being children, due to air and artillery strikes. In contrast, Israel acknowledges the death of 1,400 people, mostly civilians, in the Hamas attack that triggered the conflict. Israeli military advances have raised questions about adherence to international laws protecting medical centers and displaced people.

U.S. Secretary of State’s Remarks

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking in New Delhi, stressed the need for more progress in preventing Palestinian civilian deaths and supplying humanitarian aid. He emphasized the complexity of the situation, calling for maximized efforts to protect Palestinian lives.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to the media after participating in the so-called “2+2 Dialogue” in New Delhi, India, November 10, 2023. Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Concerns Over Medical Facilities

With 18 out of 35 hospitals and 40 health centers in Gaza out of service, the situation remains dire. Indonesian Foreign Ministry condemned attacks on civilian objects, especially humanitarian facilities in Gaza, following explosions near the Indonesian Hospital.

The Legality of Strikes on Hospitals

Debate over the legality of strikes near hospitals has intensified. Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy stated that if Hamas headquarters are located in a hospital, like Shifa, the facility would lose its protected status. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk highlighted that while the use of civilians by Palestinian armed groups to shield themselves is against the laws of war, it does not absolve Israel of its duty to spare civilians.