A dozen people were reportedly killed at a second major medical facility in northern Gaza on Monday as Israeli forces closed in on the packed Indonesian hospital despite hopes that a ceasefire for hostages deal may be agreed.
Video broadcast on Al Jazeera showed damage to what were described as patient facilities, while daytime footage on social media appeared to show that Israeli tanks were close to the medical complex.
One medical worker, Marwan Abdallah, said the tanks were clearly visible from the hospital windows. “Women and children are terrified. There are constant sounds of explosions and gunfire,” he added.
The ministry of health in Gaza said it believed 12 had been killed in shelling overnight and that it feared a repeat of what happened at the al-Shifa hospital complex, which was surrounded and raided by Israeli forces last week.
There was no immediate comment from the Israel Defense Forces, although in the past the Israeli military has said it believed that a Hamas tunnel entrance is near to the Indonesian hospital and that missiles were launched into Israel from nearby.
The ministry of health said that 700 people, including medical staff, were crowded into the Indonesian hospital, the last operating in Gaza City. Broadcast footage showed wounded people and sheltering civilians packed into its corridors, seeking treatment or safety from the fighting.
Retno Marsudi, Indonesia’s foreign minister, said the attack on the hospital “was a clear violation of international humanitarian laws” and she urged Israeli’s allies to call on it to “stop its atrocities”. Donations from the south east Asian country helped originally establish the facility in the far north of the Gaza Strip.
Israel invaded Gaza at the end of October triggered by the Hamas attack three weeks earlier that killed 1,200 people, most of them civilians. Israel responded with an almost immediate aerial bombardment of the densely populated strip, before launching the ground invasion, in which over 13,000 Palestinians have died.
An estimated 1.7m Palestinians living in Gaza have also been displaced since the start of the war, according to figures from United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) released on Monday. The total population of the strip was estimated at 2.3m before Hamas’s 7 October attack on Israel.
But there have been hopes Israel and Hamas may be edging towards a deal in talks brokered by Qatar that would lead to the release of a significant number of the 240 hostages, possibly in return for a limited ceasefire and the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.
Senior US and Israeli officials and the Qatari prime minister all suggested that an agreement was close on Sunday, although observers have cautioned that public statements during such negotiations are often misleading and any potential deal could easily collapse.
Relief trucks originally from Jordan entered Gaza from Egypt on Monday with the intention of setting up a new field hospital in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis. Jordanian state media said they hoped the new facility would help ease some of the humanitarian crisis as Israel’s forces seize medical facilities in the north.
A total of 28 premature babies were rescued from Shifa hospital and taken to Egypt in an effort coordinated by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. Three babies remained in Gaza, two for family reasons, and one because the family could not be identified.
The World Health Organization said the hospital had become a “death zone” on Sunday, with a mass grave at the entrance and only 25 staff left to care for 291 seriously ill patients, who it is feared are too ill to be moved despite the fighting.
Israel says Hamas runs operations from under Shifa, and on Sunday evening it released video footage that it said showed two hostages being taken into the facility on 7 October, when Hamas launched its initial bloody assault.
Adm Daniel Hagari, a spokesperson for the military, released CCTV video that appeared to show two hostages, said to be a Nepali and a Thai man, into hospital. One of the two was clearly injured and was being carried on a hospital trolley.
On the same day, the IDF separately released video footage that it said showed the first solid evidence of a sophisticated Hamas tunnel network underneath the Shifa hospital complex.
In footage dated 16 and 17 November taken by army robots, a tunnel shaft about 10 metres long is navigated by a rickety circular staircase, before it reaches a 55-metre tunnel. The tunnel contains electricity wires and slopes downwards until it ends at a blast-proof door, with a small slot through which to fire weapons. The IDF says it is yet to reach beyond the door.
Hamas acknowledges that it has a network of hundreds of kilometres of secret tunnels, bunkers and access shafts throughout the Palestinian territory, but claims these are not located in civilian infrastructure such as hospitals.