Israel ‘expands’ Gaza war operations: Hamas war live updates | ET REALITY

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For the people of Gaza, Al Shifa is the largest and most advanced hospital there is: a lifeline, in normal times, and now a place of refuge from relentless Israeli airstrikes.

More than 60,000 people take refuge there. But for the Israeli army it is a threat and, perhaps, a target.

On Friday, hours before the Israeli military intensified its bombardment of Gaza in retaliation for Hamas’ mass killings of Israelis three weeks ago, it held a press conference in which it said Al Shifa is hiding underground command centers for Hamas, raising fears that the army was laying the groundwork to attack the hospital.

Hamas “exercises its command and control in different departments of the hospital,” said Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military’s chief spokesman, speaking in English and citing undisclosed intelligence sources. He showed a illustrated map of the hospital marking what he said were several underground Hamas facilities in the complex.

“This is where they direct the rocket attacks and direct the Hamas forces,” he said at the press conference in Tel Aviv.

He also played a recording of a call, the origin of which he did not specify, in which an unidentified man tells a woman that Hamas’ military headquarters is below the hospital.

“God forbid!” The woman, who also has no name, responds in the audio recording.

Salama Marouf, head of the media office of the Hamas-run Gaza government, denied the allegation in a Press conference on Friday night, saying that Israel “had not provided a single piece of evidence” to support its claims about Al Shifa. He said the recording Admiral Hagari cited was “fabricated.”

Credit…Dawood Nemer/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

On Saturday, Admiral Hagari said the news conference about the hospital was part of an ongoing effort to “expose” Hamas’s “exploitation” of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip.

Also on Saturday, Israel released a pair of videos which it said showed Palestinian prisoners who had been “involved” in the October 7 Hamas raids into Israel talking about Hamas’s use of Al Shifa.

“I know, for example, from what I have heard, that they are using Shifa Hospital, they are hiding there.” says onewho describes himself in the video as a paramedic.

Israel has long considered civilian infrastructure, such as homes, shopping malls and places of worship, as legitimate targets for its attacks, and claims that Hamas conducts operations in such places, using civilians as human shields.

Israel says that when it attacks, it tries to distinguish between civilians and combatants. Gaza’s Health Ministry has released the names of at least 1,500 children under the age of 10 who it says were killed in Israeli airstrikes from October 7 to 26.

Smoke rising from northern Gaza after an Israeli airstrike on Saturday. On Friday night, Israel carried out incursions into Gaza after launching an intense bombardment, with artillery and airstrikes, military officials said.Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

Al Shifa’s usual capacity is 700 beds. But it is now home to more than 60,000 people: the injured, those trying to care for them, and tens of thousands more who have taken refuge there, believing a hospital would offer them some protection.

Dirty clothes of the displaced hang from the windows and along the metal fence that surrounds the hospital. Children run through the fluorescent-lit hallways. At night, people huddle under colorful blankets, as staff prepare for another day treating patients without enough fuel, water or critical medications.

Among Al Shifa’s current patients are around 130 newborns who were orphaned right at birth, according to Al Shifa doctors.

When their pregnant mothers were rescued dead or dying from the rubble of buildings destroyed by Israeli airstrikes, obstetricians went to work, tearing the babies from their mothers’ bodies. They were born prematurely and placed in incubators at Al Shifa’s neonatal intensive care unit.

Most of them are the only survivors in their families, according to Bisan Ouda, a Gaza journalist and filmmaker who filmed inside the hospital last week and interviewed hospital staff in videos published by the United Nations Population Fund.

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A doctor who treats premature babies at Al Shifa Hospital said many of the newborns were now orphans.CreditCredit…Bisan Ouda for UNFPA

Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah, a British-Palestinian plastic surgeon who volunteers at the Al Shifa burn treatment unit, he told CNN on October 24 that the hospital had coined a new designation, “injured child with no surviving family,” to refer to more than 50 children who by that time had been pulled from the rubble and brought to Al Shifa.

“For the number of children I treated, there is not a single family member left,” he said in a separate statement. interview with a Lebanese television journalist on Friday. “The father was murdered, the mother too, and the brothers, aunts, uncles, grandfather and grandmother.”

And he added: “It’s hard not to imagine your own children when you see the children of these people, suffering in this brutal way. “His only sin is being Palestinian.”

Iyad Abuheweila and Isabel Kershner contributed with reports.

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