Tanks besiege Gaza City hospitals as Israel ramps up attacks on medical centers
- 11,078 killed, including 4,506 children, and 27,490 wounded in Gaza
- 183 Palestinians killed in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem
- Israel ramps up its attacks on Gaza hospitals, where thousands are seeking refuge.
- 260 people killed in Gaza in span of 24 hours.
- Several Gaza City hospitals are surrounded by Israeli forces and fear the worst.
- Water, food, and electricity shortages put more lives at risk as medical facilities on the verge of full shutdown.
- Amidst the high-scale devastation, Netanyahu tells Fox News, “we don’t seek to displace anyone.”
- Israel announces daily four-hour “tactical, localized” pauses in bombardments of Gaza, denounced by U.N. special rapporteur as “cynical and cruel.”
- U.S. indicates concern for diplomatic impact of its support of Israel, as diplomatic cables warn the country is losing the Arab public “for a generation.”
- Death toll rises in the West Bank.
- France holds humanitarian fundraising conference for Gaza in Paris, Palestinian rights groups respond assert this “alone will not absolve France” to comply with its respinsibilties.
Israel targets Gaza hospitals
The Gaza Ministry of Health said that Israeli army tanks were surrounding the al-Rantisi and al-Nasr hospitals in Gaza City on Friday, as medical centers across the besieged Gaza Strip were subjected to an escalation of Israeli bombardment in the past 24 hours.
“Thousands of patients, medical staff, and displaced people are trapped inside hospitals, without water and food, and are at risk of death at any moment. The world should be ashamed of itself for not doing anything in the face of massacres, and targeting and besieging hospitals,” Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra wrote.
Al-Jazeera meanwhile reported that Israeli forces had carried out strikes throughout the night very close to al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, and that gunshots could be heard getting nearer and nearer on Friday morning. Israel has claimed al-Shifa hospital sits above Hamas’s main command center in Gaza — but the biggest hospital in Gaza is currently a refuge for thousands of civilians seeking shelter and medical treatment amid the absolute devastation caused by thousands of Israeli bombs raining over Gaza since October 7.
In the past 24 hours alone, Israeli strikes have reportedly hit Rantisi hospital, al-Nasr hospital, al-Shifa’ hospital, and the Indonesian hospital in Beit Lahia, the al-Aqsa clinic in Khan Younis (in supposedly “safe” southern Gaza), in the vicinity of al-Awda hospital in Tal al-Zaatar, and al-Quds hospital in Gaza City. The strike on Rantisi sparked a fire on the lower floor of the children’s hospital. An as-of-yet unconfirmed number of people were killed by strikes at the Indonesian Hospital and al-Shifa.
The Ministry of Health also reported on Friday that Israeli forces had detained two ambulance drivers heading back north after bringing the wounded into southern Gaza, doing so “despite coordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross.”
The heightened attacks against medical facilities come amid a severe increase in Israel’s restrictions on fuel, food, and water entering Gaza, threatening to grind the entire health care system to a halt — in addition to airstrikes targeting water tanks and solar panels. On Thursday night, the Gaza Ministry of Health said it only had “a few hours” until hospitals in the northern Gaza Strip and Gaza City were out of service — adding that 38 children suffering from kidney failure at Rantisi hospital were now deprived of life-saving dialysis services.
“Now 95% of the population are unable to access safe water and 1.5 million are displaced into crowded settings, and harsh winter weather looms. The conditions are ripe for the spread of communicable and waterborne diseases — diseases that adversely affect children and lead to preventable deaths,” International Rescue Committee’s Bob Kitchen said on Thursday.
NGO Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor has meanwhile reported that children were suffering from severe malnutrition, dehydration, and waterborne illnesses — life-threatening conditions that, while they may not be included in death tolls from the violence, would directly result from Israel’s genocidal war tactics.
As of midday on Friday, the Gaza Ministry of Health reported that 11,078 people had been killed, including 4,506 children, and another 27,490 people wounded since October 7. Additionally, 2,700 people have been reported missing under the rubble, including 1,500 children.
Israel’s four-hour ‘humanitarian pauses’ described as ‘cynical and cruel’
Amid global calls for a humanitarian ceasefire, Israel has seemingly agreed to U.S. requests for humanitarian “pauses”, reportedly agreeing to “tactical, localized” daily pauses in bombardments for four to six hours daily.
UN special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories Francesca Albanese described these “pauses” as “very cynical and cruel”. “There have been continuous bombings, 6,000 bombs every week on the Gaza Strip, on this tiny piece of land where people are trapped and the destruction is massive. There won’t be any way back after what Israel is doing to the Gaza Strip,” Albanese told reporters in Australia.
Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has rejected Israel’s claims that humanitarian pauses in fighting would “only benefit Hamas”.
“These claims cannot justify the indescribable harm meted out to the roughly 2.2 million people living in the Strip who are now caught up in a daily struggle for survival, not just because of Israel’s incessant strikes but also because of the critical shortage of food and water,” the group said on Friday. “Bringing humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip is not a favor Israel is being asked to extend to the civilian population there. Rather, it is Israel’s duty under international humanitarian law.”
As the death toll in Gaza rises inexorably, including a significant proportion of children, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Fox News on Thursday, making incredible claims that Israel wasn’t “seek[ing] to displace anyone.”
“We want to see field hospitals. We’re encouraging and enabling humanitarian help to go there. That’s how we’re fighting this war.”
Netanyahu’s comments fly in the face of countless statements by Israeli, Palestinian, U.N., and other international organizations denouncing the collective punishment meted out against civilians in Gaza since October 7. According to OCHA, 1.5 million people — roughly 65% of Gaza’s population — have been internally displaced by the conflict. On Thursday, the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) warned of the devastating long-term consequences of the conflict.
“The unprecedented loss of life, human suffering, and destruction in the Gaza Strip is unacceptable. UNDP joins the UN Secretary-General’s calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire; the release of all hostages; and humanitarian access to allow life-saving aid to reach civilians at the scale needed,” UNDP administrator Achim Steiner said. “The impacts of this war will also have long-lasting effects and will not be confined to Gaza. On top of the humanitarian catastrophe we see unfolding, there is also a development crisis. The war is rapidly accelerating poverty in a population already vulnerable before this crisis hit.”
Fighting continues in Gaza and elsewhere
Hospitals weren’t the only targets of Israeli airstrikes since Thursday. According to WAFA news agency, Palestinian civilians were killed by Israeli airstrikes in al-Shuja’iyya, Al-Zaytoun, Tel Al-Hawa, Sheikh Radwan, Al-Nasr, and al-Shati refugee camp. A number of deadly airstrikes were also reported in Nuseirat and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip – where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have fled despite the lie that the south would be safe from Israeli strikes.
Civil defense and ambulance teams recovered the bodies of more than 50 people killed by overnight Israeli airstrikes on al-Buraq school in the Gaza City neighborhood of al-Nasr.
Meanwhile, ground fighting continues to rage on between Palestinian resistance groups and Israeli armed forces in the Gaza Strip. At least 41 Israeli soldiers have been confirmed killed since the beginning of Israel’s offensive in Gaza, Israeli media reported, while the army claimed to have killed 30 Hamas fighters in the past day, including the head of Hamas’ amphibious forces unit. Hamas has yet to confirm or deny these reports.
Two weeks into Israeli sending ground troops into Gaza, Haaretz reports that Israeli commanders estimate it would take “a time frame of months” to achieve their goal of defeating armed Palestinian resistance in the northern Gaza Strip, but that Washington, D.C. — Israel’s staunchest ally — was “signaling that there won’t be more than a few weeks, even after a limited deal for the release of captives.”
“After that, the U.S. is pressing for the fighting to take place in a different format,” Haaretz wrote.
Despite its continued stance in favor of Israel’s right to so-called self-defense in public, United States officials are balking — privately and publicly — at the ruthless and, some say, unrealistic methods pursued by Israel.
US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Charles Q. Brown said on Thursday that Israel’s aim of toppling Hamas was “a pretty large order,” urging for Israel to limit the length of its war in Gaza. “The faster you can get to a point where you stop the hostilities, you have less strife for the civilian population that turns into someone who now wants to be the next member of Hamas,” he said.
Israel’s goal to eradicate Hamas was also dismissed by Palestinian Authority officials — which itself have been embroiled in conflict with the group ruling in the Gaza Strip over the years.
“Hamas is not only in Gaza, Hamas is an idea,” P.A. Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh told France 24 on Thursday. “Hamas is in the West Bank, in Lebanon, in Syria, Hamas leadership is in Qatar… so to say the goal is to eliminate Hamas is totally not going to happen.
Meanwhile, CNN revealed on Friday that U.S. President Joe Biden had received “stark warnings” from American diplomats in the Middle East and North Africa that its continued support for Israel was having a devastating impact on Washington’s standing in the region, “losing us Arab publics for a generation.”
Palestinian armed resistance groups have claimed rockets fired towards Israeli towns in the Gaza envelope as well as Tel Aviv in the past 24 hours, while groups in southern Lebanon were exchanging fire with forces in northern Israel. Armed groups in Iraq and Syria claimed strikes on U.S. bases in the country in retaliation for U.S. support of Israel.
More than 19 dead in the West Bank
Violence also continued unabated in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem. Armed confrontations between Israeli forces and Palestinian resistance groups reportedly took place in Jenin, Balata refugee camp, Qalqiliya, Beit Furik, Jabaa, and al-Askar refugee camp. The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health reported at least 18 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces overnight, including 14 in Jenin alone, and at least one teenager.
Another Palestinian teenager, 17-year-old Muhammad Ali Azzieh, was killed during an Israeli army raid in the Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem on Friday morning. WAFA news agency reported that Israeli forces prevented medical personnel from administering first aid as he lay in critical condition before detaining him, only for Azzieh to succumb to his wounds two hours later.
At least 50 Palestinians were detained overnight across the occupied West Bank, adding to the unprecedented number of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel since October 7. Israeli forces also destroyed the homes of two Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank city of Hebron early on Friday — part of a longstanding practice of punitive house demolitions that have been repeatedly denounced as collective punishment.
Settler attacks were also reported in the villages of Kisan, Ni’lin, and Masafer Yatta— as Peace Now has described settler violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank as the “third front” of the war.
In occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli armed forces fired tear gas and bullets at worshippers seeking to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque for the fifth Friday in a row, Al-Quds newspaper reported.
France holds conference for Gaza aid
French President Emmanuel Macron hosted a conference on Thursday, bringing together 80 state and NGO representatives to discuss humanitarian aid to Gaza.
Israel reportedly declined to send an envoy to attend the hastily prepared conference — while P.A. Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh was in attendance.
“How many Palestinians must be killed for the war to stop? Are six children killed every hour enough? Are four women killed every hour enough? Are more than 10,000 martyrs in 30 days enough?” he said, rejecting calls for humanitarian pauses. “What is required is to stop the war immediately so that humanitarian relief becomes meaningful, or what is the meaning of a Palestinian getting dinner and being killed the next day?”
“We cannot accept absolute hostility to the point of dehumanization of the other side,” International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) President Mirjana Spoljaric told the Paris conference. “We are confronted with a catastrophic moral failing — one that the world must not tolerate.”
“Thousands of children killed cannot be collateral damage. Pushing a million people from their homes and concentrating them in areas without adequate infrastructure is forced displacement. Severely limiting food, water, and medicine is collective punishment,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini told the assembled participants.
While Macron has claimed the conference generated promises for up to 1 billion euros in donations — which remain to be given — French newspaper Le Mondereported that NGOs were “disappointed” by the absence of a consensus regarding a full ceasefire.
Meanwhile, a group of Palestinian human rights organizations — including Addameer, Al-Haq, the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, and Miftah — addressed a statement to Macron calling on France to “clearly step up to its international responsibilities and take concrete actions to bring Israel’s aggression and genocidal acts to an end.”
“We note that given the absence of all the leading Palestinian civil society organizations and the invitation of Israeli representatives who do not fully recognize the UN-affirmed inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, this convening is hardly ‘representative’ of Palestinian civil society voices,” the organizations, which did not attend the conference, wrote. “Paying lip service to ‘peace’ by inviting ‘Palestinian civil society’ representatives to participate in mundane forums and raising humanitarian funds alone will not absolve France of the moral and political failure to comply with its responsibilities to uphold international law.”
“Humanitarianism has depoliticized the reality of a man-made system of control that aims at erasing and invisibilizing Gaza and the Palestinians, in a slow genocide,” they added. “Pledging funds and humanitarian supplies without a genuine political path to dismantle Israel’s settler colonial apartheid regime, prevent genocidal acts against Palestinians, and the denial of their inalienable right to self-determination and return, will only perpetuate brutal cycles of violence.”
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