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Israel-Palestine war: Israeli troops encircle Gaza hospitals, bomb al-Shifa again

Tanks approach several hospitals in Gaza City, as Israeli forces tell civilians to leave to the south of the besieged enclave
Smoke plumes rise from the ruins of buildings in Gaza City as shells fall on 9 November (Reuters)

Israeli forces encircled three hospitals in northern Gaza City where displaced civilians and journalists have taken refuge.

Palestinian health ministry officials say al-Rantisi Hospital, al-Nasr Children's Hospital, and the psychiatric hospital - all part of the Rantisi medical compound - have been surrounded by Israeli tanks and soldiers, who are telling all people inside to flee.

The siege follows a series of overnight air strikes on several of Gaza's hospitals, including al-Shifa, the biggest in the territory, which houses large numbers of displaced and wounded people.

The army reportedly targeted the hospital's maternity ward and outpatient clinic, with footage showing bloodied people on the floor surrounded by cries for help.

"Why, oh God why," screamed a girl with her face covered in blood following the strike on the clinic.

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Over the past few weeks, Israel has repeatedly made claims that Hamas is running operations from hospitals without providing concrete evidence.

It has notably repeated the claim of Hamas having its headquarters in the basement of al-Shifa, raising concerns over the hospital's safety as Israeli troops get closer.

"Israel hasn't put forward evidence that justifies stripping al-Shifa of its protections," said Human Rights Watch's Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir on X, formerly known as Twitter. "Its warning is ineffective as there's no safe place to go in Gaza and hospitals cannot be free-fire zones."

Ahmed Mokhalati, the head of the burns and plastic surgery department at al-Shifa hospital, told Middle East Eye that many civilians taking shelter at the hospital have decided to leave after recurring Israeli threats to bomb it.

"There is a lot of chaos in here, huge chaos," he said. "Many patients I supervise have left the hospital without telling me. Their cases are critical, and made worse by fear, the threat on al-Shifa, and severe bombardments.

"Everyone is afraid that the hospital will be Israel's next target."

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Israel has historically accused Hamas of hiding weapons near civilian buildings, such as universities and hospitals, with little evidence.

Its air strike campaigns on the Gaza Strip in the past have hit hospitals as well as other civilian infrastructure.

The present war started when Hamas launched a surprise assault on Israel that killed more than 1,200 Israelis.

In response, Israel launched a relentless bombing campaign accompanied by a tightened blockade of Gaza and a ground incursion, which has killed over 11,000 Palestinians, including over 4,000 children.

Palestinian civilians in northern Gaza were told to evacuate to the south or be seen as potential targets. Israeli air strikes have, however, targeted civilians heading south.

'Hell on earth'

The US said on Thursday that Israel had agreed to daily four-hour truces to allow civilians to leave the north.

Palestinians in the three surrounded hospitals, however, say they are fully besieged.

"The hospital is surrounded from all sides and all directions," said a woman sheltering in al-Rantisi. "We were told to evacuate the hospital now, but without the Red Cross or anything that will guarantee the safety of the civilians that will get out of the hospital."

Bakr Qaudy, the head of the Rantisi hospital, said it is struggling to function, adding that only the generator powering the intensive care unit was functioning.

"They levelled some buildings," he said. "They have been centred at the gates of the hospitals. They do not allow anyone to enter or go out. Anything that moves in the surroundings of the hospital, they immediately target it."

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Footage shared on social media showed civilians and medical staff getting shot at as they were attempting to leave al-Nasr hospital while waving white flags earlier today.

Israeli forces also reportedly arrested two Palestinian ambulance drivers heading to the north from the south, despite coordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross about their movement, according to Palestinian officials.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) spokesperson Jens Laerke said the Israeli blockade and bombardment of the northern side of the strip is barring them from sending any aid.

"If there is a hell on earth today, its name is northern Gaza," he said.

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