KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli strikes pounded Gaza City overnight and Sunday as ground forces fought Hamas militants near the territory’s largest hospital, where health officials say thousands of doctors, patients and displaced people are stuck without power and dwindling supplies.
In a televised speech Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected growing international calls for a ceasefire unless it included the release of the nearly 240 hostages captured by Hamas. in the rampage of October 7 who started the war, saying Israel was bringing “all its strength” to the battle.
Israel has vowed to end Hamas’ 16-year rule in Gaza and crush its military capabilities, while blaming the militants for the war’s heavy toll on the 2.3 million Palestinians trapped in the besieged territory. But it is under increasing international pressure due to the plight of civilians.
In Gaza City, residents reported heavy airstrikes and shelling overnight, including in the vicinity of Shifa Hospital. Israel, without providing evidence, accused Hamas of hiding a command post inside and under the hospital grounds, allegations denied by Hamas and hospital staff.
“We spent the night in panic waiting for their arrival,” said Ahmed al-Boursh, a resident taking refuge at the hospital. “They are outside, not far from the doors.”
HOSPITALS OUT OF SERVICE
The hospital’s last generator ran out of fuel on Saturday, leading to the deaths of three premature babies and four other patients, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry. It says another 36 babies are at risk of dying due to lack of electricity.
Health Ministry undersecretary Munir al-Boursh said Israeli snipers deployed around Shifa, shooting at any movement inside the compound. He said the airstrikes destroyed several houses near the hospital, killing three people, including a doctor.
“There are injured people in the house and we cannot reach them,” he told Al Jazeera television in an interview from the hospital. “We can’t stick our heads out the window.” It was unclear whether he was related to the other man with the same last name.
The Israeli military said there was a safe corridor for civilians to evacuate from Shifa to southern Gaza, but people sheltering at the hospital said they were afraid to go out. The army said its troops would help move the babies on Sunday and that it was in contact with hospital staff.
It was not possible to independently determine the situation in and around the hospital.
The Health Ministry says there are still 1,500 patients in Shifa, as well as 1,500 medical staff and between 15,000 and 20,000 people seeking shelter. Thousands of people fled Shifa and other hospitals, but doctors said it was impossible for everyone to get out.
The Palestinian Red Crescent emergency services said another hospital in Gaza City, Al-Quds, was “no longer operational” because it had run out of fuel. Gaza’s only power plant was forced to close a month ago and Israel has banned all fuel imports, saying Hamas would use them for military purposes.
Nebal Farsakh, a spokesman for the Red Crescent, said 6,000 people, including displaced families, patients and medical staff, remained stuck in the hospital.
With Shifa and other hospitals now inaccessible, people taking refuge in Gaza City said they were being deprived of emergency care. Heba Mashlah, who was sheltering at a U.N. compound with thousands of families, said a strike Saturday night killed four people and injured 15 others.
“The injured are bleeding and no one can come and help them,” she said, adding that the dead were buried inside the compound. The United Nations Development Program confirmed that one of its complexes had been hit. United Nations agencies have been unable to provide services in the north for weeks.
NETANYAHU REJECTS AMERICAN POST-WAR VISION
Netanyahu said responsibility for any harm caused to civilians lay with Hamas. Israel has long accused the group, which operates in dense residential neighborhoods, of using civilians as human shields.
On Saturday, Netanyahu began sketching Israel’s post-war plans for Gazawhich contrasts sharply with the vision put forward by the United States.
Netanyahu said Gaza would be demilitarized and Israel would retain the ability to freely enter Gaza to hunt down militants. He also rejected the idea that the Palestinian Authority, which currently administers part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, would at some point control Gaza. Hamas drove PA forces from Gaza during a week of street fighting in 2007.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States opposed it. an Israeli reoccupation of Gaza and envisions a unified Palestinian government in both Gaza and the West Bank as a step toward Palestinian statehood. Even before the war, Netanyahu’s government was fiercely opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state.
The war threatens to spark wider conflict, with Israel and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon frequently exchanging fire along the border. Hezbollah fired anti-tank missiles at Israel on Sunday, and Israel responded with artillery. The Israeli power company said workers repairing lines damaged in previous attacks were injured, and video footage showed two vehicles on fire.
EVACUATION WINDOWS, BUT NO BREAKS
The United States also called for temporary pauses that would allow broader distribution of much-needed aid to civilians in the besieged territory, where conditions are increasingly disastrous.
But Israel only has agreed on short daily periods during which civilians can flee the ground combat zone in northern Gaza and head south on foot using two main north-south routes. Meanwhile, Israel also strikes what it considers militant targets in southern Gaza, often killing women and children.
Dozens of injured people, including children, were taken to a hospital in Khan Younis after an Israeli airstrike demolished a building in the southern city. Hospital officials said at least 13 people were killed.
The war has displaced more than two-thirds of Gaza’s population, with most fleeing south. Egypt has allowed hundreds of foreign passport holders and medical patients to exit through its Rafah crossing, as well as allowing some humanitarian aid to enter.
More than 11,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and minors, have been killed since the start of the war, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which do not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths. Around 2,700 people were missing and believed to be trapped or dead under the rubble.
At least 1,200 people were killed on the Israeli side, most of them civilians killed during the initial Hamas attack. Forty-six Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza since the start of the ground offensive.
About 250,000 Israelis were forced to evacuate communities near Gaza, where Palestinian militants continue to fire barrages of rockets, and along the northern border with Lebanon.
Magdy reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Amy Teibel in Jerusalem and Abby Sewell in Beirut contributed to this report.
Full AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.