Israel-Gaza: Israel bombs Gaza's largest hospital - with patients and evacuees still inside

As pro-Palestine protests were being held in the UK, Palestinian hospital patients were being bombed by Israeli forces.

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Israeli warplanes carried out air strikes early on Sunday near Gaza’s largest hospital - which is packed with patients and Palestinians seeking shelter.

Israel has said Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers have a command post under the hospital, without providing much evidence. The strikes came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a “second stage” in Israel’s war on Hamas, three weeks after Hamas launched its own incursion into Israel. Ground forces pushed into Gaza over the weekend as Israel pounded the territory from air, land and sea.

The hospital was believed by Israeli forces to be one of Hamas' major bases of operations, with Netanyahu stating earlier this week that key Hamas sites would be targeted. The Prime Minister has also met with the families of Israelis who have been taken hostage by Hamas, who have themselves expressed concern about the intensified attacks.

Balls of fire and smoke rising above Gaza City during an Israeli strike. (Picture: Yousef Hassouna / AFP via Getty Images)Balls of fire and smoke rising above Gaza City during an Israeli strike. (Picture: Yousef Hassouna / AFP via Getty Images)
Balls of fire and smoke rising above Gaza City during an Israeli strike. (Picture: Yousef Hassouna / AFP via Getty Images)

Those who are being held captive by Hamas are largely elderly people and children, with a few military personnel. According to the Israeli government, roughly 135 are foreign or dual nationals, including 54 Thais, 15 Argentines and two Brits.

The bombardment - described by Gaza residents as the most intense of the war - knocked out most communications in the territory late on Friday, largely cutting off the besieged enclave’s 2.3m people from the rest of the world. Communications were restored to many people in Gaza early on Sunday, according to local telecoms companies, internet-access advocacy group and confirmation on the ground.

Residents said the latest air strikes destroyed most of the roads leading to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, in the northern half of the territory which Israel has told people to evacuate. Israel says most residents have fled to the south, but hundreds of thousands remain in the north. Tens of thousands are sheltering in Shifa, which is also packed with patients wounded in strikes.

“Reaching the hospital has become increasingly difficult,” Mahmoud al-Sawah, who is sheltering in the hospital, told the Associated Press over the phone. “It seems they want to cut off the area.” Another Gaza City resident, Abdallah Sayed, said the Israeli bombing over the past two days was “the most violent and intense” since the war started.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment about reports of strikes near Shifa.

The Palestinian death toll in Gaza rose Saturday to just over 7,700 people since the war began, with 377 deaths reported since late on Friday, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Most of those killed have been women and minors, the ministry added.

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