Gaza City’s al-Shifa hospital is an overcrowded bastion of wounded, those seeking shelter from ongoing Israeli bombardment and a repository for bodies unable to be buried. It is also, say Israeli authorities, the epicenter of Hamas military activities. With Israeli troops closing in on the overburdened facility, concern is mounting for those caught in the cruel maw of urban warfare.
"Horrific reports of attacks on Al Shifa hospital coming out of Gaza today," United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths said on Twitter. "The lives of thousands of patients, staff and displaced civilians are at risk."
The compound of Al-Shifa, the city’s largest hospital, was struck four times on Friday, killing seven people, its director said, according to The New York Times. The War Zone cannot independently confirm any casualty figures provided by either side.
“Gaza’s health ministry said Israeli tanks had surrounded two adjacent hospitals in another area, trapping scores of patients and refugees inside,” the publication reported.
Earlier in the day, the IDF blamed one strike on the hospital on an errant “terrorist’ projectile aimed at Israeli troops, according to CNN.
Israel is also closing in on other hospitals in Gaza City as well.
Since the beginning of the war, the IDF said it has struck "over 15,000 terror targets in the Gaza Strip and seized over 6,000 weapons."
Palestinians say more than 10,000 people have been killed in Gaza so far, a large number children. Israel, meanwhile, announced a lowered death toll, from 1,400 down to 1,200 killed during the Oct. 7 Hamas surprise invasion.
The Biden Administration, which has given Israel a tremendous amount of military and financial support and moved a large amount of military assets to the region, finds itself walking a very fine line.
On the one hand, it has pledged to continue support, but on the other, is increasing its calls on Israel to mitigate civilian casualties.
Speaking to reporters in India at the end of a whirlwind trip to the Middle East and Asia, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Israel must do more than the four-hour humanitarian pause to fighting in north Gaza initiated yesterday.
"Much more needs to be done to protect civilians and to make sure that humanitarian assistance reaches them," he said. "Far too many Palestinians have been killed; far too many have suffered these past weeks. And we want to do everything possible to prevent harm to them and to maximize the assistance that gets to them. To that end, we’ll be continuing to discuss with Israel concrete steps that can be taken to advance these objectives."
Still, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Robert Wood called out Hamas for militarizing al-Shifa.
In an exclusive interview with the BBC, French President Emmanuel Macron said there was "no justification" for the bombing of Gaza and that a ceasefire would benefit Israel.
"De facto - today, civilians are bombed - de facto," he said. "These babies, these ladies, these old people are bombed and killed. So there is no reason for that and no legitimacy. So we do urge Israel to stop."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly responded, blaming Hamas for the horrors inflicted on Gaza.
"The responsibility for any harm to civilians lies with Hamas - ISIS and not with Israel," he said.
As the suffering of civilians deprived of shelter, food, water and medicine becomes ever more unbearable, outrage at Hamas is starting to boil over as well.
"Across Gaza, rare scenes of dissent are playing out," The Associated Press reported Friday. "Some Palestinians are openly challenging the authority of Hamas, which long has ruled the enclave with an iron fist. Four Palestinians across Gaza spoke to AP on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals about what they’ve seen."
"A man who was told off by a Hamas officer for cutting the bread line took a chair and smashed it over his head, according to an aid worker in line. In another area, angry crowds hurled stones at Hamas police who cut in front of a water line and beat them with their fists until they scattered, according to a journalist there."
"Over the past few nights in Gaza City, Hamas rockets streaming overhead toward Israel have prompted outbursts of rage from a U.N. shelter. In the middle of the night, hundreds of people have shouted insults against Hamas and cried out that they wanted the war to end, according to a 28-year-old sleeping in a tent there with his family."
With both sides feeling the heat for their actions, a glimmer of hope is rising about talks that could lead to Hamas releasing some of the 240-plus hostages it holds in return for a wider pause in hostilities.
Hamas and Israel are negotiating two hostage release proposals, one involving a small number of people and one that could involve 100 or more civilians being held in Gaza, officials briefed on the talks told The New York Times.
Under one proposal being discussed, Hamas would release 10 to 20 civilian hostages — Israeli women and children as well as foreigners, including Americans — in exchange for a brief pause in hostilities, one official briefed on the talks told the Times. That could be followed by a larger release of about 100 civilians if terms are met.
In exchange for releasing all the civilians, Hamas is asking for a brief pause, more humanitarian aid, fuel for hospitals and the release of women and children in Israeli prisons, the official said, adding that the Israeli authorities had expressed uncertainty about releasing their prisoners.
Qatar, which hosts political offices of Hamas, has been the main mediator in the talks, and senior United States officials are also involved.
During his evening briefing, IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari tried to tamp down expectations.
"During the day, there were reports in foreign media and in our own media regarding a deal for the release of the hostages," he said in his briefing. "I want to tell you a number of things regarding this matter: we are working around the clock, leading initiatives to release the hostages. These processes are complex, they are not final, they are not complete, they take time and will take more time. We will not miss any opportunity to bring hostages home."
Hagari also said that hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled northern Gaza, aided by the IDF.
The IDF said it is continuing to advance in northern Gaza.
"The combat team of the 401st Brigade attacks in the area of the Shati Battalion of the terrorist organization Hamas," IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said. "During the days of fighting, the fighters eliminated about 150 terrorists and gained control over military strongholds of the terrorist organization Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip.
IDF troops raided a Hamas compound known as the Haspina outpost and a weapons production site, launch stations and an underground network.
Israel and the Iran-backed Hezbollah continue to trade fire along the Lebanese border.
The IDF said its aircraft attacked a series of Hezbollah targets in Lebanese territory.
"Among the targets attacked were a number of buildings and military positions where the organization's terrorists operated, a weapons warehouse and an intelligence infrastructure from which terrorists directed terror against the State of Israel," Hagari said.
Ahead of Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's expected speech tomorrow, his second since the start of this war, the Lebanese terror organization released a new video. It showcases its might and makes ominous threats. The video features Nasrallah as well as a wide array of weapons like anti-tank, anti-aircraft and multiple launch rocket systems. You can read more about Hezbollah's massive arsenal here.
This is a developing story. We will update it when there is more news to report about the Israel-Hamas war.
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