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Israel sends troops into ‘besieged’ Gaza hospital

Israel sent troops into a hospital in war-torn Gaza on Thursday where it said hostages may have been held, as medics warned the key medical facility was operating in ‘near impossible’ conditions.


The raid came after days of intense fighting between troops and Hamas militants around the Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis — one of the largest medical sites in southern Gaza, and one of the few hospitals that are still operational in the territory.

Israel, which has accused Hamas militants of using hospitals for military purposes, said it was carrying out a ‘precise and limited operation’ at the facility with ‘no obligation’ for patients or staff to evacuate.

Israeli army spokesman Rear-Admiral Daniel Hagari said there was ‘credible intelligence from a number of sources, including from released hostages, indicating that Hamas held hostages at the Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis and that there may be bodies of our hostages’ at the hospital.

The health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza has reported that thousands of people who had sought refuge at the hospital, including patients, have been made to leave in recent days.

It has called the situation at Nasser ‘catastrophic’, with staff unable to move bodies to the morgue because of the risks involved.

Nurse Mohammed al-Astal said this week that the facility had been ‘besieged’ for a month and was facing deadly sniper fire, sewage in the emergency room, and a lack of drinking water.

Doctors Without Borders has warned its staff there are continuing to treat patients ‘amid near impossible conditions’.

The World Health Organisation has described Nasser hospital as a critical facility ‘for all of Gaza’, where only a minority of hospitals are even partly operational.

The army, citing intelligence estimates and information from the ground, said ‘over 85 per cent of major medical facilities in Gaza have been used by Hamas for terror operations’.


Roughly 130 hostages are still believed to be in Gaza after the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas militants, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Dozens of the estimated 250 hostages seized during the attack were freed in exchange for Palestinian prisoners during a week-long truce in November. Israel says 29 of those still in Gaza are presumed dead.

At least 28,663 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israel’s assault on the Palestinian territory, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

Israel launched more deadly strikes on southern Gaza on Thursday, after Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted it would push ahead with a ‘powerful’ operation in the overcrowded city of Rafah for ‘complete victory’.

AFP photographs show thick black smoke billowing into the sky over Khan Yunis, as Israeli bombardments continue.


Hundreds of thousands of people have been driven into Rafah, seeking shelter in a sprawling makeshift encampment near the Egyptian border.

‘We were displaced from Gaza City to the south,’ said Ahlam Abu Assi. ‘Then they told us to go to Rafah, so we went to Rafah.

‘We can’t keep going and coming,’ she added. ‘There is no safe place for us.’

Australia, Canada and New Zealand were the latest to warn Israel not to launch a ground offensive in Rafah, issuing a joint statement saying it would be ‘devastating’ for the 1.5 million Palestinians trapped there.

‘There is simply nowhere else for civilians to go,’ they said.

In Cairo, efforts to secure a ceasefire entered a third day, with negotiators from the United States, Qatar and Egypt trying to broker a deal to suspend the fighting and see the release of the remaining hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

CIA director William Burns joined the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service for talks with mediators on Tuesday, while a Hamas delegation was in Cairo Wednesday.

But there was no sign of immediate progress.


Netanyahu’s office said it did not receive ‘any new proposal’ from Hamas about releasing hostages, and Israeli media reported that the country’s delegation was not to return to negotiations until Hamas softens its stance.

While he did not comment directly on the reports, Netanyahu said: ‘I insist that Hamas drop their delusional demands, and when they drop these demands we can move forward.’

Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas, who governs the Israeli-occupied West Bank, has urged Hamas to ‘rapidly’ agree to a truce and stave off further tragedy for Palestinians.

Meanwhile a reported peace plan was slammed by two powerful Israeli far-right ministers on Thursday, who said they would ‘in no way agree’.

The Washington Post said US President Joe Biden’s administration and a small group of Arab allies were working out a comprehensive plan for long-term peace which included setting out a timeline for creating a Palestinian state.

With regional tensions high, the Israeli army said rocket fire from Lebanon Wednesday killed an Israeli soldier, while Lebanese sources said Israeli strikes had killed 15 people, 10 of them civilians.

A security source in Lebanon said Thursday the dead included Hezbollah commander Ali al-Debs and two other Hezbollah fighters.

Since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war, Hezbollah has traded near-daily fire with Israeli troops, with tens of thousands displaced on both sides.

But the worst single-day civilian death toll in Lebanon since October raised fears of a broader conflict between Israel and militant group Hezbollah.

After meeting commanders near the Lebanese border, Israeli army chief Herzi Halevi said Israel is ‘now focused on being ready for war in the north’.

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