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Israel hits Gaza hospitals as death toll soars in besieged strip

By AFP - Nov 12,2023 - Last updated at Nov 12,2023

Bodies of people killed in a reported Israeli strike, lie on the ground in the vicinity of Gaza City's Al Shifa hospital compound on Friday (AFP photo)

GAZA STRIP, Occupied Palestine — Gaza hospitals reported being under constant fire and running on nearly exhausted supplies Saturday as Israel rejected key allies' condemnation of a rising civilian death toll in the Hamas-controlled territory.

The director of the besieged Palestinian territory's largest hospital, Al Shifa, said on Saturday the compound was struck repeatedly overnight and lost power for hours after its generator was hit.

"We received calls about dozens of dead and hundreds wounded in air and artillery strikes, but our ambulances weren't able to go out because of gunfire," said hospital director Mohammad Abu Salmiya.

Gaza health ministry said dozens of premature babies at Al Shifa compound were at risk of dying because the lack of generator fuel meant their incubators could be shut down on Saturday as fighting raged.

They added one of the babies had died, and one person was killed and several others wounded in a strike on Al Shifa early Saturday.

The suffering in Gaza has prompted growing calls for a halt in five weeks of fighting in order to protect civilian lives and allow humanitarian aid into the densely populated territory.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Israel had the right to defend itself but urged it to stop strikes on civilians in Gaza: “These babies, these ladies, these old people are bombed and killed.”

The ministry says Israeli fighting has killed more than 11,000 people, also mostly civilians and thousands of them children.


‘Far too many’ deaths 


Concern over the civilian toll has also come from staunch Israel ally Washington, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying Friday: “Far too many Palestinians have been killed.”

The conflict has stoked regional tensions, with deadly cross-border exchanges between the Israeli army and Lebanon’s Hizbollah movement.

Hospitals have become key sites for Palestinians seeking refuge from the intense gun battles and bombardment.

A wounded boy at the Indonesian hospital, Youssef Al Najjar, said he was waiting for surgery but the necessary machines were off due to lack of power.

“I’m very thirsty but I’m not allowed to drink or eat until the operation is done,” he added.

Twenty of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are “no longer functioning”, the UN’s humanitarian agency said.


Tens of thousands flee 


Fighting has reduced some streets in Gaza to ruins, with the sounds of apparent explosions and gunfire caught Saturday on AFPTV’s Gaza City camera.

The bodies of about 50 people killed in a strike on Gaza City’s Al Buraq school were taken to the Al Shifa hospital, its director said on Friday.

The exodus toward Gaza’s south, which has accelerated under intense fighting and through evacuation corridors, has seen tens of thousands of people flee in recent days.

An estimated 30,000 additional Palestinians went southwards through a corridor opened by the Israeli military on Friday, according to the UN humanitarian affairs office OCHA.

The Israeli military said that around 150,000 Palestinians have left in a “mass evacuation” south in recent days from the area of the northern Gaza Strip where combat is heavy.

However, strikes were hitting buildings at the southern end of Gaza in Rafah, the area of the densely-populated territory to which civilians have been urged to evacuate.

“They struck us with a missile, and they are innocent people,” said Harb Fojou, standing near the rubble of a destroyed building.

Almost 1.6 million people have been internally displaced since October 7, according to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA, about two thirds of Gaza’s population.

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