Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pushed back against growing international calls for a ceasefire, saying Israel’s battle to crush Gaza’s ruling Hamas militants will continue with “full force”.
A ceasefire would be possible only if all 239 hostages held by militants in Gaza were released, Netanyahu said in a televised address.
Palestinians flee to the southern Gaza Strip on Salah al-Din Street in Bureij.Credit: AP
The Israeli leader also insisted that after the war – now entering its sixth week – Gaza would be demilitarised and that Israel would retain security control there. Asked what he meant by security control, Netanyahu said Israeli forces must be able to enter Gaza freely to hunt down militants.
He also rejected the idea that the Palestinian Authority, which currently administers autonomous areas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, would at some stage control Gaza. Both positions run counter to post-war scenarios floated by Israel’s closest ally, the United States.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the Biden administration opposes an Israeli reoccupation of Gaza and envisions a unified Palestinian government in both Gaza and the West Bank at some stage as a step toward Palestinian statehood.
Palestinians walk among what is left of residential buildings.Credit: Bloomberg
Pressure was growing on Israel after frantic doctors at Al Shifa hospital, Gaza’s largest, said the last generator had run out of fuel, causing the deaths of a premature baby, another child in an incubator and four other patients. Thousands of war-wounded, medical staff and displaced civilians were caught in the fighting.
Al Shifa hospital director Mohammed Abu Selmia said the facility lost power over the weekend.
“Medical devices stopped. Patients, especially those in intensive care, started to die,” he said by phone, with gunfire and explosions in the background. He said Israeli troops were “shooting at anyone outside or inside the hospital” and prevented movement between buildings.
The World Health Organisation expressed “grave concern” for the safety of everyone trapped in the hospital and said it had lost communications with its contacts there.
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry says there were still 1500 patients at Al Shifa, along with 1500 medical personnel and between 15,000 and 20,000 people using the hospital for shelter.
Israel’s military said there was a safe corridor for civilians to evacuate from Al Shifa to southern Gaza, but people sheltering in the hospital said they were afraid to go outside.
Israel’s chief military spokesperson, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said the army would help evacuate babies from the hospital on Sunday (Gaza time), at the request of the staff at Al Shifa.
Ashraf Al-Qidra, who represents the health ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza, said there were 45 babies in total.
When asked about the evacuations, Al-Qidra said: “We have not been informed about any mechanism to get the babies out to a safer hospital. So far, we are praying for their safety and not to lose more of them.”
People mourn as they collect the bodies of Palestinians killed in Israeli raids in Khan Yunis, in Gaza’s south.Credit: Getty
The Palestinian Red Crescent rescue service also said another Gaza City hospital, Al-Quds, was “no longer operational” because it had run out of fuel. Gaza’s sole power plant was forced to shut down a month ago, and Israel has barred any fuel imports, saying Hamas would use them for military purposes.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said Israeli tanks were 20 metres from Al Quds, causing “a state of extreme panic and fear” among the 14,000 displaced people sheltering there.
Israel has said doctors, patients and thousands of evacuees who had taken refuge at hospitals in northern Gaza must leave so it could tackle Hamas gunmen who it said had placed command centres under and around them.
Hamas denies using hospitals this way. Medical staff say patients could die if they are moved and Palestinian officials say Israeli fire makes it dangerous for others to leave.
UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths posted that “there can be no justification for acts of war in healthcare facilities”.
Israel’s military released footage that it said showed tanks operating in Gaza. The images showed shattered buildings, some on fire, and destroyed streets empty of anyone but troops.
Israeli forces on Sunday claimed to have killed a Hamas commander who held 1000 Gazans “hostage” in a hospital as human shields.
The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said that Ahmed Siam, a leader in Hamas’ al-Furqan Brigade, had blocked civilians from evacuating the Al-Rantisi Hospital in Gaza City last year.
The IDF said that Siam and several other terrorists had been killed in a joint operation with Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency as they were hiding out at a school building in Gaza.
A 57-nation gathering of Muslim and Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia called in their communique for an end to the war in Gaza and the immediate delivery of humanitarian aid. They also called on the International Court of Justice, a UN organ, to open an investigation into Israel’s attacks, saying the war “cannot be called self-defence and cannot be justified under any means.”
Israeli soldiers and journalists take cover as a siren warns of incoming rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.Credit: AP
Netanyahu has said the responsibility for any harm to civilians lies with Hamas, which denied it was preventing people in Gaza City from fleeing.
Following Hamas’ deadly October 7 attack on Israel, in which about 1400 people were killed, Israel’s allies have defended the country’s right to protect itself. Nearly 240 people abducted by Hamas from Israel remain captive. However, with the war now into its second month, there are growing differences over how Israel should conduct its fight.
The US has pushed for temporary pauses that would allow for wider distribution of badly needed aid to civilians in the besieged territory where conditions are increasingly dire. Israel has only agreed to brief daily periods during which civilians can flee the area of ground combat in northern Gaza and head south on foot along the territory’s main north-south artery.
Palestinian civilians and rights advocates note that Israeli bombardment has continued across Gaza and has included airstrikes on the south that Israel says target Hamas leaders, but that have also killed civilians.
More than 11,070 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and children, have been killed since the war began, according to the health ministry in Gaza, which does not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths. About 2700 people have been reported missing and are thought to be possibly trapped or dead under the rubble.
AP, Reuters, Telegraph
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