July 14, 2024

The World Health Organization said on Sunday that it had documented more than 100 attacks on the health care system in Gaza, as the Israeli military said Hamas fighters were using two additional hospitals in the enclave to conceal their operations.

Fourteen hospitals in the enclave — including 10 in the densely populated area of Gaza City — are no longer operating, according to the W.H.O. arm operating in the Palestinian territories. The W.H.O. called for “active protection of civilians and health care,” in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Israeli officials continued to insist on Sunday that Hamas was using health centers in the area as human shields. Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief spokesman for the Israeli military, said Hamas was “cynically” and “systematically” exploiting medical facilities.

A little more than a week after Israeli officials said they had identified Al Shifa, Gaza’s largest and most advanced hospital, as being used by Hamas for underground command and control centers, Admiral Hagari presented what he said was evidence that the armed group was using two others — Sheikh Hamad, north of Gaza City, and Indonesian, in northern Gaza — essentially as cover.

Admiral Hagari presented images and videos of what he said was the opening to a Hamas tunnel under Sheikh Hamad Hospital and gunmen opening fire on Israeli ground forces from within the hospital. He also said there was an underground Hamas command and control center under Indonesian Hospital, and showed aerial images of what he said were rocket launchpads about 80 yards from its grounds. Hamas placed them there, he said, knowing that any airstrike against the launchpads would damage the hospital.

The images could not be independently verified. Admiral Hagari said that Israel had shared them with “other agencies.”

In making the earlier accusations about Al Shifa, Admiral Hagari had presented an illustrated map of that hospital and, citing intelligence sources that he did not release, described areas of the complex and underground installations that he said were used as command centers by Hamas. Hamas officials denied the accusation at the time, saying that Israel had failed to provide any evidence.

Credit…Bashar Taleb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Credit…Mohammed Saber/EPA, via Shutterstock

Israeli and Palestinian claims and counterclaims about the hospitals have become a flashpoint in the war, not least because many of the facilities have become refuges for displaced Gazans who believe they are safer than other alternatives.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society, an independent aid group, said on Sunday that Israel was continuing to bombard the area around Al Quds Hospital in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood of southern Gaza City. Israel has not publicly identified that hospital, which is run by the Red Crescent group, as harboring Hamas military infrastructure.

The Red Crescent group said that Israeli forces had intensified their attacks on the hospital’s vicinity, where it said that artillery and aerial bombardments “from all directions” over the past week had injured 47 displaced people sheltering in the hospital as well as two patients in its intensive care unit.

On Saturday, a strike hit near the entrance of the hospital’s emergency room, according to the group. A surgeon there, Dr. Nabil al-Shawa, said 21 people had been wounded.

About 14,000 displaced people have been sheltering at the hospital in recent days, and another 500 were being treated there, the aid society said, adding that the bombardment had caused significant damage to the hospital’s critical care unit and water supply lines.

The World Health Organization said in a statement on Saturday that an attack was reported near the Indonesian Hospital, but it did not provide any details.

The W.H.O.’s statement condemned attacks near Al Quds Hospital and an Israeli airstrike on Friday that hit near the entrance of Al Shifa Hospital and, according to Gazan and Israeli officials, killed multiple people. The Palestine Red Crescent Society said the strike came as a convoy of ambulances trying to carry wounded people to the Gaza border was returning to the hospital. The convoy, the group said, had turned back after reaching a crater on its southbound road.

The Israeli military said it had carried out the strike on an ambulance being used by Hamas and had killed a number of operatives.

“We strike based on intelligence,” Admiral Hagari said on Sunday. “We do not want to strike hospitals and ambulances,” he said. He added, “We are fighting to defeat Hamas, to free our hostages and to free Gaza from Hamas.”

Hiba Yazbek contributed reporting.