GAZA/JERUSALEM: Israeli tanks surrounded a hospital in north Gaza and at least 12 Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded by firing into the complex, health officials said on Monday, as fighting raged on amid indications of a possible pause in hostilities.
There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military about the situation at the Indonesian Hospital, where health officials in Gaza said 700 patients along with staff were under fire from Israeli forces.
The Palestinian news agency WAFA said the facility in the northeast Gaza town of Beit Lahia had been hit by artillery fire. Palestinian health officials said there were frantic efforts to evacuate civilians out of harm's way.
Hospital staff denied there were any armed militants on the premises. Israel says its forces in Gaza are targeting "terror infrastructure" and accuse Hamas of waging war behind human shields, including in hospitals, which the group denies.
“We had information earlier that tanks were besieging the Indonesian Hospital. Unfortunately..., communications there are almost cut,” Nahed Abu Taaema, director of Nasser Hospital in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, told Reuters.
“We are very concerned about the fate of our colleagues and the fate of wounded and patients as well as (displaced) people who may have still sheltering there. No ambulances can reach them, and we're afraid the wounded will die,” said Abu Taeema.
Like all other health facilities in the northern half of Gaza, the Indonesian Hospital, set up in 2016 with funding from Indonesian organisations, has largely ceased operations but is still sheltering patients, staff and displaced residents.
Israel has ordered the complete evacuation of the north, but thousands of civilians remain, many seeking shelter in hospitals. Fuel and medicines have been running out across the entire enclave under Israel's six-week-old siege.
Witnesses also reported bouts of heavy fighting between Hamas gunmen and Israeli forces trying to advance into north Gaza's Jabalia refugee camp, home to 100,000 people and, according to Israel, a significant militant stronghold.
Repeated Israeli bombardment of Jabalia, an urban extension of Gaza City that grew out of a camp for Palestinian refugees from the 1948 Israeli-Arab war, has killed scores of civilians, Palestinian medics say.
At the other end of the Gaza Strip, health officials said at least 14 Palestinians were killed in two Israeli air strikes on houses in the town of Rafah, near the border with Egypt. Hundreds of thousands of Gazans who fled the north of the enclave are sheltering in southern areas including Rafah.