Israel Defense Forces Reportedly Issues Call to Evacuate Second Hospital in Gaza
According to unverified reports in Palestinian social media on Wednesday afternoon, the IDF has ordered the evacuation of Shifa hospital in Gaza.
The reports, cited by Israeli daily Ma’ariv, said that both the Israeli military and officials at the hospital have not confirmed that a call to evacuate the medical facility has been made.
Shifa Hospital, according to IDF officials, is being used as a base by top Hamas officials, including former Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh.
On Tuesday, Nick Casey, The Wall Street Journal’s Middle East Correspondent, confirmed the suspicions.
“You have to wonder [with] the shelling how patients at Shifa hospital feel as Hamas uses it as a safe place to see media”, he tweeted.
Casey subsequently deleted the tweet.
On Wednesday, John Reed, Jerusalem bureau chief for the Financial Times, tweeted, “Watched two rockets fired toward Israel from near al-Shifa hospital, even as more bombing victims were brought in. Not over yet.”
Earlier Wednesday, the IDF targeted Wafa hospital. IDF officers said troops had been repeatedly attacked with anti-tank missiles from the hospital in the Shujaiya neighborhood.
Shujaiya, a neighborhood east of Gaza City with a population estimated at around 300,000, has seen fierce fighting since Saturday night, including an incident in which 13 IDF soldiers from the Golani Brigade were killed when an anti-tank missile hit their armored personnel carrier (APC).
The body of one of the soldiers, Oron Shaul, has not been found. Hamas claims it is holding him captive, IDF assessments are that he is dead and the terror group only holds his remains.
Meanwhile, CNN reported on Wednesday that UNRWA, the UN agency dealing with Palestinian refugees, found Hamas rockets during an examination of one of their facilities. This is the second time since Israel’s Operation Protective Edge began that arms were found inside an UNRWA facility.
Battles continued on Wednesday across the Gaza Strip. Palestinian reports claimed there were dozens killed and wounded in the streets of Khuzaa at the south of Khan Younis and residents in the neighborhood said Israeli troops have been operating there since the early morning hours.
They also claimed the IDF was barring ambulances from entering the zone to evacuate the wounded.
However, AFP reported late Wednesday afternoon that fighting was halted briefly to allow Red Cross rescue forces to retrieve the wounded. “A convoy of seven ambulances and two Red Cross cars went inside Shujaiya to evacuate the wounded,” International Committee of the Red Cross spokeswoman Cecilia Goin was quoted by as saying. She added that both the IDF and Hamas agreed to the local, temporary halt.
So far, more than 650 Palestinians, 32 IDF soldiers and three Israeli civilians have been killed in the fighting. One of the Israeli civilians was a foreign worker killed on Wednesday by a mortar bomb.