Israel launches a night raid on Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza

Image source, Getty Images

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Humanitarian groups say Al-Shifa Hospital (photo December 2023) has faced difficulties continuing to operate in recent months

Israeli forces launched a night raid on Shifa Hospital in Gaza, with reports of tanks and heavy gunfire hitting the hospital.

An Israeli army spokesman said that the Israeli army was carrying out a “high-precision operation in limited areas” of the hospital.

The Israeli army said that “senior Hamas terrorists have regrouped” inside the hospital and are using it to launch attacks.

Eyewitnesses described a state of panic inside the complex in Gaza City.

A man said in a recorded call with his brother posted on a WhatsApp group and heard by the BBC: “Tanks are surrounding us. We are hiding inside the tent. We hear tanks firing around the compound.”

Heavy gunfire was heard around the hospital in unverified footage posted on social media.

In another audio message he sent to reporters from inside the hospital, Muhammad al-Sayyid said: “The soldiers here inside the complex there are dead and wounded, and the soldiers arrested some young men. The situation here is catastrophic.”

The Israeli army did not indicate publicly in advance that it was planning to launch a new operation in Shifa.

In a video message posted in the early hours of the morning, the IDF's chief spokesman, Admiral Daniel Hagari, said the IDF was responding to “specific intelligence that requires immediate action.”

He said the hospital would be able to continue operating during the raid, and told patients and staff they did not have to evacuate.

He added that the displaced people taking shelter in the complex would be able to leave the hospital via the evacuation route, before calling on Hamas to “surrender immediately.”

A statement issued by the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza described the operation as a “flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.”

Hundreds of displaced Palestinians are taking refuge in the hospital, which was raided by Israeli forces earlier in the conflict.

Al-Shifa Hospital was Gaza's main medical facility before the conflict, but its operations have been severely disrupted after months of fighting.

Image source, Getty Images

Hospitals have protected status in times of war under international humanitarian law – but may lose this protection in limited circumstances if they are used to commit “an act harmful to the enemy”.

Israel has long accused Hamas of using medical facilities as a cover for its operations, something the Iran-backed militant group denies.

The Israeli army said it found a network of tunnels under the hospital that Hamas used when it raided Al-Shifa Hospital in November 2023, in addition to weapons.

Israeli forces also carried out a major military operation on the grounds of Nasser Hospital – the second largest medical facility in Gaza – in February.

The Israeli army said it found weapons and evidence of hostages being held at the facility during its raid on Nasser Hospital.

The Israeli army launched a campaign in Gaza after Hamas gunmen killed about 1,200 people in southern Israel on October 7 and took 253 others hostage. The Gaza Ministry of Health says more than 31,300 people have been killed in the Palestinian territories since then.

Additional reporting by Rushdi Abualof

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