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War on Gaza: Patients die at hospital as France warns Israel against 'catastrophic' Rafah attack

Israel's foreign minister says it is coordinating with Egypt over fears of a refugee influx into Sinai
Palestinian patients arrive in Rafah after they forced out from Nasser hospital in Khan Younis by Israeli troops 15 February 2024 (Reuters/Mohammed Salem)
Palestinian patients arrive in Rafah after being forced from Nasser hospital in Khan Younis by Israeli troops 15 February 2024 (Reuters/Mohammed Salem)

Five Palestinian patients died at Khan Younis's Nasser hospital on Friday as a result of a raid by Israeli forces, while the international community continued to warn against a "catastrophic" invasion of Rafah.

The patients died due to a lack of oxygen caused by an Israeli-imposed power outage that has severely restricted supplies, according to health officials.

On Friday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said it was trying to gain access to the hospital, where thousands of patients, displaced people and medical staff were sheltering before being forced out at gunpoint on Thursday. 

"There are still critically injured and sick patients who are inside the hospital,” WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said.

"There is an urgent need to deliver fuel to ensure the continuation of the provision of life-saving services ... We are trying to get access because people who are still in Nasser Medical Complex need assistance."

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The Israeli military has defended the raids on what is now the largest functioning hospital in Gaza as "precise and limited", claiming that they had detained dozens of "terrorists", without providing any evidence.

The Palestinian health ministry on Friday said the overall death toll from Israel's attack on Gaza had reached 28,775 since 7 October, the majority of them children and women. 

Rafah fears

The raid comes as fears have continued to mount over a looming Israeli invasion of the southern Gaza city of Rafah and the possible displacement of the 1.5 million Palestinians living there.

Israel has repeatedy denied it has any plans to expel Palestinians from Rafah into Egypt, and on Friday, Israel's foreign minister, Israel Katz, said it would coordinate with Egypt on any new wave of displaced Palestinians caused by a ground assault on Rafah.

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"The state of Israel will have to deal with Rafah because we can't just leave Hamas there," Katz said on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

However, even staunch allies have urged Israel to reconsider entering Rafah.

Many fear the only place left to flee would be to Egypt's Sinai peninsula, something which rights groups say could amount to an act of ethnic cleansing.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that an Israeli offensive in Rafah "could only lead to an unprecedented humanitarian disaster and would be a turning point in this conflict".

"I share the fears of Jordan and Egypt of a forced and massive displacement of the population," Macron added, speaking at the Elysee Palace along Jordan's King Abdullah.

The Jordanian monarch concurred with Macron, warning of potentially "catastrophic consequences".

Three killed in Israel

Violence has continued to flare up in other parts of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

At least two people have been killed and others wounded in a suspected shooting attack at a bus stop in southern Israel, according to Israeli emergency services and Hebrew media.

The shooting took place at Re’em Junction, just north of Kiryat Malachi.

According to Hebrew media, the attacker arrived in a car and opened fire. He was reportedly shot and killed by a soldier.

"This attack reminds us the entire country is a front and the murderers, who come not only from Gaza, want to kill us all," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"We will continue to fight until total victory."

Elsewhere, a Palestinian man was shot in the head with a rubber-coated bullet by Israeli forces in his home during a military raid on Shuafat refugee camp, north of Jerusalem, according to the Wafa news agency.

Video footage circulating online revealed an Israeli police officer firing directly at a Palestinian man standing at the window of his house while filming the camp raid on his phone.

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