Israeli drones ‘attack southern Gaza hospital’
Ibraheem Abu Mustafa and Nidal al-Mughrabi |
The Palestinian Red Crescent has accused Israel of firing at a hospital in Khan Younis, as US President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time in nearly a month.
The Red Crescent said displaced people were injured “due to intense gunfire from the Israeli drones targeting citizens at Al-Amal Hospital” on Friday as well as the rescue agency’s base. The military said it was checking the report.
Nearby in the same city, Israeli tanks were also approaching Gaza’s biggest remaining functioning hospital, Nasser, where people reported hearing shellfire from the west. Residents also reported fierce gun battles to the south.
Israel has launched a major new advance in Khan Younis this week to capture the city, which it says is now the primary base of the Hamas fighters who attacked Israeli towns on October 7, precipitating a war that has devastated the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile White House spokesman John Kirby said Biden and Netanyahu had discussed efforts to secure remaining hostages held by Hamas, and Israel’s shift to more “targeted” operations in Gaza to allow more humanitarian assistance to come through.
“The president also discussed his vision for a more durable peace and security for Israel fully integrated within the region and a two state-solution with Israel’s security guaranteed,” the White House said in a statement on Friday about the phone call.
The call came after Netanyahu on Thursday appeared to rule out an independent Palestinian state, rejecting a long-standing pillar of US strategy in the Middle East.
“Israel must have security control over the entire territory west of the Jordan River,” Netanyahu told a briefing in Tel Aviv. “It clashes with the principle of sovereignty, but what can you do?”
Kirby denied the leaders’ phone conversation came in response to Netanyahu’s comment.
The Gaza health ministry said 142 Palestinians had been killed and 278 injured in Gaza in the past 24 hours, taking the death toll from more than three months of war there to 24,762.
The World Health Organisation says most of the enclave’s 36 hospitals have stopped working. Only 15 are partially functioning and those are operating at up to three times their capacity, without adequate fuel or medical supplies, it says.
Israeli officials have accused Hamas fighters of operating from hospitals, including Nasser, which staff deny.
More than 1.7 million people – around 75 per cent of Gaza’s population – are estimated to be displaced, many forced to move repeatedly, according to UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) figures. Many have sought refuge in tents that do little to protect them from the elements and disease.
While saying he was not shying away from the “human tragedy” inflicted on Gaza civilians, Israeli President Isaac Herzog cast the offensive as a step towards more peaceful relations with the Palestinians in the future, and bolstering global security, during his appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
In the north, where Israel says it has started pulling out troops and shifting to smaller scale operations, 12 people were killed in Israeli strikes on a residential building near the largely non-functioning Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Palestinian health officials said.
An Israeli strike on a house in Al-Nusseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip killed five Palestinians, health officials said.
US President Joe Biden spoke with Netanyahu on Friday, the White House said, without disclosing details of the call. White House spokesman John Kirby later said Biden still believed in a two-state solution.
“He recognises that’s going to take a lot of hard work. It’s going to take a lot of leadership there in the region,” Kirby told reporters at a White House briefing.
Israel’s onslaught on Gaza was triggered by Hamas attacks in which around 1200 people were killed and 253 taken hostage, of whom about half are still in Gaza, according to Israeli tallies.