Israeli Forces Surround Gaza’s Main Hospital Amid Conflict; Offer Incubators for Newborns

Israeli soldiers operate amid what the Israeli army says is the ongoing ground operation against the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in a location given as Gaza, in this screen grab from a handout video released on November 14, 2023. (Reuters)

Amid ongoing tensions and violence, Israeli forces have surrounded Al-Shifa hospital, Gaza’s largest medical facility, alleging it sits atop a Hamas headquarters. The situation has led to a dire humanitarian crisis, with officials reporting numerous deaths, including premature infants, due to power outages and encirclement.

Mass Grave for Decedents Amid Siege

Ashraf Al-Qidra, spokesperson for Gaza’s health ministry, confirmed the dire situation from within the hospital compound. “There are about 100 bodies decomposing inside, and we plan to bury them today in a mass grave within the Al-Shifa medical complex,” he said. He described the conditions as extremely dangerous, lacking any protection or cover, leaving them with no other choice.

Palestinians inspect the site of Israeli strikes on houses in Jabalia refugee camp, in northern Gaza on Tuesday. (Anas al-Shareef/Reuters)

Israeli Offer of Aid Amidst Claims of Using Patients as Shields

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced a “humanitarian effort” to transfer incubators from an Israeli hospital to Al-Shifa. This offer comes amid IDF claims that Hamas is using the hospital and its patients as shields, a claim Hamas denies. The IDF stated, “The IDF remains committed to upholding its moral and professional responsibilities to distinguish between civilians and Hamas terrorists.”

In an audio release, an IDF officer is heard offering incubators and assistance for evacuating children and patients. The hospital director purportedly accepted the offer. However, Gaza’s health ministry reported that 40 patients, including three babies, died since the hospital’s emergency generator failed, and Israel’s military has been accused of hindering fuel delivery, a charge it denies.

A wounded Palestinian baby receives treatment at the al-Shifa hospital, following Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City, central Gaza Strip, Oct. 23, 2023. Gaza’s Shifa Hospital has become the focus of a days-long stalemate in Israel’s war against Hamas.

US President Calls for Protection of Hospitals

US President Joe Biden emphasized the need for hospital protection. “My hope and expectation is that there will be less intrusive action relative to hospitals,” he stated, highlighting ongoing negotiations involving Qatar for a potential ceasefire and prisoner release.

Hostage Situation and Ceasefire Proposals

Amidst the escalating conflict, the armed wing of Hamas, Al-Qassam Brigades, proposed releasing up to 70 women and children hostages in return for a five-day ceasefire. This offer was made as Israel continues its military campaign, which has led to more than 11,000 confirmed deaths, with children comprising about 40% of the fatalities. Israel, which maintains a blockade over Gaza, has rejected a ceasefire, arguing Hamas would use it to regroup.

Israel’s forces have reached Gaza’s largest hospital, where hundreds of patients and civilians are believed to be sheltering inside. Israel says Hamas is using them as human shields, and it produced images of what appears to be an underground bunker discovered under another hospital.

Escalating Violence in the West Bank

The conflict has also escalated in the West Bank, with Israeli forces killing several Palestinians in Tulkarm during a raid. Reports indicate the Palestinians were suspected militants. This uptick in violence has raised concerns about the West Bank becoming a new front in the conflict.

Israeli police on Tuesday remove the remains of a rocket which was fired from Gaza, in Ashkelon, in southern Israel. (Amir Cohen/Reuters)

International Response and Future Outlook

The situation remains tense, with international bodies and governments closely monitoring developments. The potential for a ceasefire and resolution to the hostage situation is still uncertain, with both sides maintaining firm stances. The humanitarian crisis, particularly in Gaza, continues to worsen, prompting calls for immediate action to protect civilians and essential infrastructure like hospitals.