- The Israeli military said early Wednesday its forces had entered Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital.
- Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas of using the facility for cover.
- Doctors at the hospital have pleaded in recent days for assistance amid failing power.
The Israeli military raided Gaza’s largest hospital early Wednesday, conducting what it called a “precise and targeted operation against Hamas in a specified area” of the facility, which has been the site of a standoff with the ruling militant group.
Israeli authorities claim the militants conceal military operations in the Al Shifa Hospital. But with hundreds of patients and medical personnel inside, the military has refrained from entering.
In recent weeks, Israeli defense forces have publicly warned that such use of the hospital “jeopardizes its protected status under international law,” the military said. On Tuesday, military officials conveyed again to Gaza authorities that all military activity in the hospital must cease within 12 hours.
“Unfortunately, it did not,” the military said.
Hamas has denied the Israeli accusations that it uses the hospital for cover.
Doctors at the hospital told CNN that they were given 30 minutes of warning before the operation.
“We were asked to stay clear of the windows and the balconies,” Dr. Khaled Abu Samra told CNN. “We can hear the armored vehicles, they are very close to the entrance of the complex.”
Israeli military officials gave no further details but said they were taking steps to avoid harm to civilians.
The operation unfolded after the military seized broader control of northern Gaza on Tuesday, including capturing the territory’s legislature building and its police headquarters, in gains that carried high symbolic value in the country’s quest to crush Hamas.
“Ahead of the operation, we made an effort to evacuate the hospital from its patients and even opened a specific safe passage from the hospital. We notified the hospital’s management ahead of the entry into the compound,” the IDF said.
Doctors this week have pleaded for assistance amid failing power at the hospital.
“We don’t have electricity. There’s no water in the hospital. There’s no food. People will die in a few hours without functioning ventilators,” a doctor with the international humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders said in a Monday statement.
Al Shifa Hospital is one of at least four major hospitals in Gaza that have been forced to the front line of fighting in recent days.
Thousands, including doctors, patients, and those who fled their homes, are said to be sheltering there.
International organizations have warned of crises at multiple medical facilities, including Al Shifa, which is the biggest hospital in Gaza City.
White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the US has unspecified intelligence that Hamas and other Palestinian militants use Shifa and other hospitals and tunnels underneath them to support military operations and hold hostages.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.