Al Shifa hospital continues to shelter displaced families in Gaza City. Photo Courtesy: WHO
The Israel Defence Forces on Wednesday (November 15, 2023) said its troops are carrying out a precise and targeted operation against Hamas members in a specified area in the Shifa Hospital.
In a statement posted on X, IDF said: "The IDF is conducting a ground operation in Gaza to defeat Hamas and rescue our hostages. Israel is at war with Hamas, not with the civilians in Gaza."
"The IDF forces include medical teams and Arabic speakers, who have undergone specified training to prepare for this complex and sensitive environment, with the intent that no harm is caused to the civilians being used by Hamas as human shields," the force said.
"In recent weeks, the IDF has publicly warned time and again that Hamas' continued military use of the Shifa hospital jeopardizes its protected status under international law, and enabled ample time to stop this unlawful abuse of the hospital. Yesterday, the IDF conveyed to the relevant authorities in Gaza once again that all military activities within the hospital must cease within 12 hours. Unfortunately, they did not," the IDF said.
The IDF asked Hamas members present in the hospital to surrender.
UN health agency WHO hailed on Tuesday (November 14, 2023) the “heroic efforts” of staff at Gaza City’s besieged Al-Shifa hospital and expressed concern for hundreds of thousands of displaced people in the enclave where heavy rainfall has caused flooding and aggravated the already dire health crisis. In a statement issued later in the day, the UN Palestine refugee agency (UNRWA) chief said that fuel stocks were now exhausted, bringing the aid operation to a halt on the Egyptian border.
In a statement issued by his Spokesperson, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he was "deeply disturbed by the horrible situation and dramatic loss of life" reported in Gaza's medical facilities.
"In the name of humanity, the Secretary-General calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire", the statement reiterated.
“Rain will just add further to the suffering” of people in the Strip, WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris told reporters earlier in Geneva, at a time when disruptions in sewage pumping and water shortages have caused a spike in waterborne diseases and bacterial infections.
The World Health Organization warned last week that since mid-October, over 33,500 cases of diarrhoea have been reported, mostly among children under five, some 16 times the monthly average.
Facilities run by the UN agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, where over 580,000 displaced people in southern Gaza had sought shelter due to Israel’s offensive in retaliation for Hamas’ deadly 7 October attacks, are more than nine times over capacity and the overcrowding is posing further health risks.
“We are begging for a ceasefire to happen now,” Dr. Harris insisted.
Meanwhile in Geneva, the families of some of the 238 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza since 7 October were due to continue their advocacy for the release of their loved ones on Tuesday.
A meeting was announced between hostages’ families and Mirjana Spoljaric, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), a UN humanitarian partner organisation.