KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip — Battles between Israel and Hamas around hospitals forced thousands of Palestinians to flee from some of the last perceived safe places in northern Gaza, stranding critically wounded patients, newborns and their caregivers with dwindling supplies and no electricity, health officials said Monday.
With Israeli forces fighting in the center of Gaza City, the territory’s main city, both sides have seized on the plight of hospitals as a symbol of the larger war, now in its sixth week. The fighting was triggered by Hamas’ Oct. 7 surprise attack into Israel, whose response has led to thousands of deaths — and much destruction — across Gaza.
President Joe Biden on Monday in the Oval Office said that Gaza’s largest hospital “must be protected” and called for “less intrusive action” by Israeli forces.
“It is my hope and expectation that there will be less intrusive action,” Biden said.
Shifa hospital has been without electricity and water for three days, and gunfire and bombings outside the compound have made the situation more difficult.
“We do not want to see fire fights in hospitals,” said White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan at a briefing. “We want to see patients protected. We want to see hospitals protected. We have spoken with the Israeli government about this and they have said they share that view that they do not want to see fire fights in hospitals.”
Israel accuses Hamas of using hospitals as cover for its fighters. On Monday, the military released footage of a children’s hospital that its forces moved into over the weekend, showing weapons it said it found inside, as well as rooms in the basement where it believes the militants were holding some of the around 240 hostages they abducted.
“Hamas uses hospitals as an instrument of war,” said Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the army’s chief spokesperson, standing in a room of the Rantisi Children’s Hospital decorated with a colorful children’s drawing of a tree. Explosive vests, grenades and RPGs were displayed on the floor.