Palestinian Territories – AFP
Twenty-nine premature babies were evacuated from war-torn Gaza to Egypt on Monday as the health ministry accused Israel of launching a deadly strike on the territory’s Indonesian Hospital.
The Gaza health ministry charged that Israel’s army killed at least 12 people in a strike on the Indonesian Hospital in the Palestinian territory’s north, a war zone where entire city blocks have been reduced to rubble.
Those killed included patients, said Ashraf al-Qudra, a spokesman of the ministry which has reported a death toll of more than 13,000 as the Gaza war rages on into its seventh week.
Dozens more were wounded and around 700 people remained trapped inside the “besieged” medical centre, Qudra said.
Israel did not immediately comment but pushed on with its withering air and ground campaign aimed at destroying Hamas in response to the October 7 attacks it says killed 1,200 people.
More than 2.4 million Palestinians are trapped in besieged Gaza and only a few hundred war-wounded and foreign passport holders have been allowed out.
On Monday Egyptian media reported that 29 premature babies evacuated from Gaza’s biggest hospital, Al-Shifa, had been taken to safety in Egypt through the Rafah crossing.
A medical source told AFP the infants would be treated at El-Arish hospital 45 kilometres (28 miles) west of the Gaza Strip or be taken to Ismailia or Cairo.
The bloodiest ever Gaza war has seen Israeli troops raid, occupy and evacuate Al-Shifa hospital in recent days, forcing hundreds to leave on foot toward southern Gaza.
Israel, backed by the United States, argues that Hamas has used vast tunnel networks below Al-Shifa for military purposes. It has shown recovered weapons but was yet to reveal evidence of a major military headquarters below ground that it has been claiming is there.
After another Gaza building was hit, in Deir al-Balah south of Gaza City on Sunday, rescuers searched through the debris for survivors and bodies, using the lights of their mobile phones in the rain.
“There are only children and women in the house and no one else,” exclaimed one resident.
“How can that give them (the Israeli army) an excuse to hit it? … We don’t have any equipment to pull people out from under the rubble.”
– ‘Like the apocalypse’ –
Alarm has surged over the dire humanitarian situation across Gaza.
The Israeli offensive has killed more than 13,000 people, including thousands of children, according to the Hamas-run government, fuelling mounting global pressure for a ceasefire.
The UN humanitarian agency OCHA has described a “collapse of services” at hospitals amid shortages of electricity, fuel and medical supplies.
As intense urban combat raged in northern Gaza, another 20,000 people fled south on Sunday, according to the UN humanitarian agency.
Families walked amid rubble and along cracked roads as gunshots and explosions rang out in the distance.
“It’s like the apocalypse, it’s difficult, very difficult,” said one tearful woman, Renad al-Helou. “There are those who have lost sons and daughters, the wounded, pregnant women.
“We are tired. There’s no water, no food … There’s nothing left in Gaza. There’s only destruction, suffering and torture.”
– ‘Humanitarian disaster’ –
The Israeli army said on Sunday it was taking its war against Palestinians to “additional neighbourhoods”.
Artillery and airstrikes destroyed several houses in central Gaza City, and doctors at the Al-Ahli hospital told AFP they had received dozens of dead and injured.
The Indonesian Hospital is located near the Jabalia refugee camp, where on Saturday a health official said more than 80 people were killed in twin strikes, including on a UN school sheltering displaced people.
Israeli forces were also reportedly pounding southern Gaza, where the Doctors Without Borders charity said 122 casualties had arrived at a facility in Khan Yunis, 70 of them dead on arrival.
The Gaza war has sparked fears of a wider conflagration in the Middle East where Israel has long faced arch enemy Iran and its allies.
– Qatari mediation –
Frantic diplomatic efforts were meanwhile underway to seal a deal for the release of some of the 240 prisoners Hamas took during their October 7 attacks on Israel.
Qatari mediators on Sunday touted progress on a deal that would free some of them and pause the fighting, pointing to only “very minor” practical challenges.
Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said: “I’m now more confident that we are close enough to reach a deal.”
But neither details nor a timeline were provided.
US deputy national security adviser Jon Finer also told US media that negotiators were “closer than we have been in quite some time” to a deal.
But he cautioned: “The mantra that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed really does apply.”