Israel faced mounting international pressure, including from its main ally the United States, to do more to protect Palestinian civilians in Gaza as the death toll rose and fighting intensified near hospitals.
The number of Palestinians killed during the bombardment of the coastal enclave in the past five weeks rose above 11,000, according to Gaza health officials, as Israeli forces waged war on Hamas militants who carried out the deadly Oct. 7 rampage in southern Israel.
In his strongest comments to date on the plight of civilians caught in the cross-fire, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on a visit to India on Friday: “Far too many Palestinians have been killed; far too many have suffered these past weeks.”
But Blinken reaffirmed US support for Israel’s campaign to ensure that Gaza can no longer be used “as a platform for launching terrorism,” Reuters reported.
French President Emmanuel Macron, in a BBC interview published late on Friday, said Israel must stop bombing Gaza and killing civilians. France, he said, “clearly condemns” the “terrorist” actions of Hamas, but that while recognizing Israel’s right to protect itself.
“We do urge them to stop this bombing,” Macron said.
Fighting intensified overnight into Saturday near Gaza City’s overcrowded hospitals, which Palestinian officials said were hit by explosions and gunfire.
“Israel is now launching a war on Gaza City hospitals,” said Mohammad Abu Selmeyah, director of Al Shifa hospital.
He said later that at least 25 people were killed in Israeli strikes on Al-Buraq school in Gaza City, where people whose homes had been destroyed were sheltering.
Gaza officials said missiles landed in a courtyard of Al Shifa, the enclave’s biggest hospital, in the early hours of Friday, damaged the Indonesian Hospital and reportedly set fire to the Nasser Rantissi paediatric cancer hospital.
Israel’s military said later that a misfired projectile launched by Palestinian militants in Gaza had hit Shifa.
The hospitals, filled with displaced people as well as patients and medical staff, are in northern Gaza, where Israel says the Hamas militants are concentrated.
Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy said the Hamas headquarters was in Shifa hospital’s basement, which meant the facility could lose its protected status and become a legitimate target.
Israel says Hamas hides weapons in tunnels under hospitals. Hamas denies that.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that health workers the group was in contact with at Shifa had been forced to leave the hospital in search of safety.
“Many of the thousands sheltering at the hospital are forced to evacuate due to security risks, while many still remain there,” Tedros wrote on social media.
‘NO ONE IS SAFE’
Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said Israel had bombed Shifa hospital buildings five times.
“One Palestinian was killed and several were wounded in the early morning attack,” he said by phone. Videos verified by Reuters showed scenes of panic and people covered in blood.
Israeli tanks have taken up positions around the Nasser Rantissi hospital as well as the Al-Quds hospital, medical staff said earlier.
The Palestinian Red Cross said Israeli forces were shooting at Al-Quds hospital, and there were violent clashes, with one person killed and 28 wounded, most of them children.
Israeli army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht said at a briefing the army “does not fire on hospitals. If we see Hamas terrorists firing from hospitals we’ll do what we need to do. We’re aware of the sensitivity (of hospitals), but again, if we see Hamas terrorists, we’ll kill them.”