IDF troops enter Al Shifa hospital as thousands of civilians and staff shelter inside
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
The Israeli military said its troops went into the main hospital complex in Gaza City overnight, where conditions for patients and medical staff had been growing increasingly desperate as fighting has gone on around the hospital. Israel says Hamas militants operate in Al-Shifa hospital and other hospitals or in tunnels underneath. All this comes as Israel continues to pursue Hamas fighters after the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, with Gaza health officials saying the Israeli offensive has killed more than 11,000 people there. NPR's Peter Kenyon is following these developments from Jerusalem and joins us now. Hi, Peter.
PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.
CHANG: OK. So what is the latest on Al-Shifa hospital at this point? And what happened there exactly today?
KENYON: The Israeli military mounted an operation inside the hospital, which is a complex of buildings, saying its troops took every measure to ensure that patients, staff and civilians weren't harmed. Al-Shifa is a pretty modern hospital where doctors have carried out complex operations. But doctors and others have described dire conditions for the hundreds of people still there. They say low power supplies have left them unable to run incubators for infants, and at least two have died. They say they've had to bury people in a mass grave. And for the living, food and water are running low. Rights groups say hospitals are protected under international law, even if militants are around. But Israel says Hamas using Al-Shifa as a base of operations, voids that protected status. The military says they discovered weapons and what they call terrorist infrastructure at Al-Shifa.
CHANG: And what exactly is Israel saying right now about why they felt they had to enter Al-Shifa?
KENYON: Well, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was full of praise for this operation, saying in a statement, quote, "there is no place in Gaza we cannot reach. There are no hideouts, there is no shelter or refuge for the Hamas murderers." Military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said Hamas was guilty of using a facility designed to save lives to mount terrorist attacks. Here's some of what he said.
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DANIEL HAGARI: Israel is at war with Hamas, not with the civilians in Gaza. The IDF has publicly warned time and again that Hamas' continued military use of Shifa Hospital jeopardizes its protected status under the international law.
KENYON: Now, the military also says its troops clashed with and killed Hamas militants outside the hospital before gaining access.
CHANG: And is there any new information now on the more than 200 hostages being held by Hamas? Like, how are efforts going to secure their release?
KENYON: Well, President Biden has said talks are ongoing. The Reuters news agency is reporting mediators from Qatar are trying to negotiate a deal with Hamas and Israel that would see Hamas release some 50 hostages in exchange for a three-day cease-fire. But some Israeli media report that talks are stalled.
CHANG: And what do we know about where the Israeli military operation in Gaza stands at this point? Like, what might happen next?
KENYON: Well, basically, the military is claiming success in northern Gaza. It moved many civilians out and killed a number of Hamas fighters. Remember, Israel's goals are to remove Hamas as a security threat. The analysts I've spoken with suggest it may be much harder for Israel to operate in the southern Gaza Strip as it did in the north. And Hamas fighters are still in fire fights with Israeli troops, still firing rockets into Israel. So clearly the group is still operating.
CHANG: That is NPR's Peter Kenyon in Jerusalem. Thank you, Peter.
KENYON: Thanks, Ailsa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.