The United States has warned Israel not to fire on hospitals in Gaza and endanger the lives of patients and civilians sheltering civilians, as fighting rages between Israeli troops and Hamas militants in proximity to the largest medical facilities in the besieged enclave.
Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser, told CBS News on Sunday that the United States “does not want to see gunfights in hospitals where innocent people – patients receiving medical care – are caught in the crossfire.” “.
His remarks reflect growing international concern over dire conditions in Gaza’s hospitals, particularly in al-Shifa, where thousands have sought refuge from Israeli bombardment of the coastal enclave.
Hamas said some facilities had been attacked by Israeli forces and warned of a catastrophic shortage of essential medical supplies and other necessities. He said two newborns died in al-Shifa on Saturday after a fuel shortage to power the hospital’s generators.
Another hospital in Gaza City, al-Quds, was forced to close because it no longer had enough fuel and electricity, the Palestinian Red Crescent announced on Sunday.
Over the past 36 days, the World Health Organization has recorded at least 137 attacks on health units in Gaza, resulting in 521 deaths and 686 injuries, including 16 deaths and 38 injuries among health workers on duty.
More than half of the hospitals in the Gaza Strip are closed. Those still operating are under considerable pressure and can only provide very limited emergency services, the UN agency said.
The fighting in Gaza City is the latest stage of a ground offensive launched by Israel more than two weeks ago to eliminate Hamas and overthrow the armed group’s 16-year rule in Gaza.
The war was sparked by Hamas’s devastating rampage in southern Israel on October 7, in which its militants killed more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took around 240 hostages.
Since then, more than 11,000 Gazans have been killed in Israeli bombardments on the strip, according to Palestinian health officials.
The war has heightened tensions in the region. Clashes on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon intensified on Sunday when Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militant group, fired missiles at an Israeli village, injuring several state electricity workers , according to Israeli officials.
Seven Israeli soldiers were also injured in cross-border mortar fire, the Israel Defense Forces said. Israel responded with artillery strikes on southern Lebanon.
Drones were also shot down overnight, the Israeli military said, adding that they struck a “militant cell” in Lebanon that was attempting to launch anti-tank missiles at the Jewish state.
Separately, tentative signs were beginning to emerge of a potential deal, brokered in part by Qatar, to release some of the hostages held by Hamas.
Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is in Tel Aviv, told CBS News on Sunday that “very sensitive” discussions were underway with Doha, which hosts the office Hamas policy. He added that it was possible to exchange Palestinians imprisoned in Israel for civilians held captive in Gaza.
“A ceasefire will be very difficult without an agreement to release all the hostages,” he added.
The Israeli military confirmed this weekend that armed clashes took place between its troops and Hamas militants around al-Shifa, Gaza’s largest medical complex, while saying they did not shot at the hospital.
Al-Shifa has long been in the IDF’s crosshairs. Israel says the militant group operates from a dense network of tunnels beneath the hospital, which Hamas denies.
Sullivan appeared to support the IDF’s allegations on Sunday, saying Hamas’ use of hospitals and other civilian facilities for command and control and weapons storage constituted a “violation of the laws of war.”
He accused Hamas of “operating in a way that goes beyond the limits of any civilized concept of how one could consider using a hospital, using human shields.”
Sullivan added that the United States was in “active consultations” with the IDF on how to protect patients in Gaza hospitals while pursuing Hamas.
The regional directors of three UN agencies, including WHO and the Children’s Fund, said on Sunday: “The world cannot remain silent while hospitals, which should be safe havens, are turned into stages of death, devastation and despair.”
Israel blamed Hamas for the civilian losses. Speaking to CNN on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the organization’s militants were preventing people from leaving the war zone, “sometimes at gunpoint,” and had fired on the security corridor that Israel had created to allow Palestinians to move to southern Gaza.
“The Israeli military is doing an exemplary job of trying to minimize civilian casualties and maximize terrorist casualties,” he said.
Israel has besieged the strip of 2.3 million people since the October 7 attack, allowing only limited aid to the enclave, which is experiencing shortages of food, fuel and water. More than half of the population has been displaced.
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A Palestinian health official said only al-Shifa’s A&E department had electricity, after the hospital ran out of fuel to power generators. There was also no water, he said, because the water tanks had been hit during the fighting.
“Hospitals are under siege (and) bombed,” the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza said.
Ghassan Abu-Sitta, a British-Palestinian war surgeon working at al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City, said on Sunday that the hospital was running out of blood. “Our wounded are dying after surgery because we cannot give them blood transfusions,” he said in a message on X, formerly Twitter.
The WHO said on Sunday it had lost communication with its contacts in al-Shifa. The UN agency said the hospital was now “surrounded by tanks”. “Reports indicate that some people who fled the hospital were shot, injured and even killed,” the statement said.
This information was, however, disputed by the Israeli authorities.
Col. Moshe Tetro, head of Israel’s Coordination and Liaison Administration in Gaza, called reports of a siege and strikes against al-Shifa “lies.”
“Even now, anyone who wants to leave can do so,” he said in a statement. job on X. The east side of the facility remained open, he added.