- Palestinians call for ceasefire to allow patients and newborns to leave Gaza’s largest hospital.
- Fuel crisis prevents more aid from rolling into the territory.
- Well-known doctor from Al-Shifa Hospital killed in reported airstrike.
Palestinians trapped inside Gaza’s biggest hospital were digging a mass grave on Tuesday to bury patients who died under Israeli encirclement, and said no plan was in place to evacuate babies despite Israel announcing an offer to send portable incubators.
Israeli forces have surrounded Al-Shifa Hospital, which they say sits atop an underground headquarters of Hamas militants.
Hamas, Gaza’s ruling Islamist group, denies fighters are present and says 650 patients and 5,000 to 7,000 other displaced civilians remain trapped inside the hospital grounds, under constant fire from snipers and drones. It says 40 patients have died in recent days, including three premature babies whose incubators were shut down when power went out.
Health officials in Gaza warned the only way to save three dozen newborns trapped there would be to call a ceasefire and transport them out of the besieged territory.
Ashraf Al-Qidra, Gaza’s health ministry spokesperson, reached by telephone inside the hospital compound, said there were about 100 bodies decomposing inside. Other reports said there were about 150 bodies.
“We are planning to bury them today in a mass grave inside the Al-Shifa medical complex. It is going to be very dangerous as we don’t have any cover or protection from the [International Committee of the Red Cross], but we have no other option,” he told Reuters.
“The men are digging right now as we speak.”
One of the remaining doctors at the hospital who regularly updated journalists on the worsening conditions inside was killed in a reported airstrike on the weekend, his sister said Tuesday. She said Dr. Hammam Alloh and three of their relatives died in a home that was a 10-minute walk from the hospital.
Israel announced on Tuesday that it was offering portable, battery-powered incubators so the babies could be moved. But Qidra said that so far no arrangements had been established to carry out any such evacuation.
Christian Lindmeier, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization, said the only way to save the newborns is to move them out of Gaza.
Israel denies the hospital is under siege and says its forces allow routes for those inside to exit. Medics and officials inside the hospital say this is not true and those trying to leave have come under fire. Reuters could not verify the situation independently.
In his first comments since the patient deaths reported at Al-Shifa, U.S. President Joe Biden said hospitals must be protected.
“My hope and expectation is that there will be less intrusive action relative to hospitals and we remain in contact with the Israelis,” Biden told reporters on Monday.
Front Burner28:36The ceasefire debate
Thousands forced to flee
Gaza medical authorities say more than 11,000 people have been confirmed killed in the Israeli bombardment, about 40 per cent of them children.
Roughly two-thirds of the people in the densely populated Mediterranean strip have been made homeless by Israel’s military campaign, in which it has ordered the northern half of Gaza evacuated.
Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, posted an audio recording on Telegram saying the group was ready to release as many as 70 women and children hostages in return for a five-day ceasefire, an offer Israel is unlikely to embrace.
“We told the [Qatari] mediators that in a five-day truce, we can release 50 of them and the number could reach 70 due to the difficulty that the captives are held by different factions,” said al-Qassam Brigades spokesman Abu Ubaida said, saying Israel had asked for 100 to be freed.
Israel, which effectively blockades Gaza, has rejected a ceasefire, arguing that Hamas would simply use it to regroup, but has permitted brief humanitarian “pauses” to allow food and other supplies to flow in and foreigners to flee.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said it may run out of fuel by Wednesday, forcing it to halt most aid operations. The United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Monday that it expected trucks transporting aid into Gaza could stop rolling on Tuesday due to a lack of fuel. There have been no reports of any new deliveries of supplies from Egypt on Tuesday.
Israel launched its war against Hamas after the Islamist Palestinian group’s Oct. 7 attack into southern Israel. Around 1,200 people died in that attack, including several Canadians. On Monday, it was confirmed that Canadian Israeli peace activist Vivian Silver, whose fate was uncertain, was killed in the initial attacks at Kibbutz Be’eri in southern Israel, where she resided.
Israeli believes some 240 people were taken to Gaza as hostages in the attacks. Hamas also continues to fire rockets into Israel.
Israel confirms soldier’s death
Israel’s military on Tuesday confirmed the death of Noa Marciano, a soldier held captive in Gaza after Hamas issued video of her alive.
It appeared to be the first time Israel has confirmed such a claim by Hamas, which in the past has said that dozens of hostages from its Oct. 7 attack had died or were missing due to the ensuing Gaza war.
In the Hamas video, disseminated on social media on Monday, Marciano identified herself on camera and said she had been held in Gaza for four days — indicating it was recorded on Oct. 11.
Hamas claims Marciano, 19, was killed in an Israeli airstrike. The Israeli military statement did not comment on the circumstances of the corporal’s death other than to describe her as an “abductee fatality in the hands of a terrorist organization.”
The families of Israelis being held hostage by Hamas kicked off a five-day march on Tuesday from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to demand the government do much more to secure their release.
“I demand [Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu and the cabinet to give us answers and actions,” said Shelly Shem Tov, whose 21-year-old son Omer was dragged into Gaza five weeks ago.
“Where are you? Where are you?” she said, addressing the government in an impassioned plea at the start of the march.
Violence flares in West Bank
Israeli forces killed at least eight Palestinians in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, seven of them in clashes during a raid in the town of Tulkarm near the boundary with Israel, Palestinian medics and local media said.
The Israeli army and police said their forces, sent into Tulkarm to detain suspected militants, came under fire and killed several Palestinian gunmen in the ensuing skirmish.
An Israeli airstrike hit a group of Palestinians who shot and threw a bomb at the group, an army and police statement said.
Israel has been striking armed groups in the West Bank with increasing intensity as it wages war on Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, another territory where Palestinians seek to establish an independent state.
An eighth Palestinian was killed by Israeli gunfire on Tuesday in Beit Aynoun, north of the city of Hebron in the southern West Bank, medical officials said.