Monday, April 15, 2024

Gaza says Nasser Hospital situation dire; Israel details ‘precise’ operation

Israeli and Palestinian officials traded claims Monday about the unfolding situation at Nasser Hospital, southern Gaza’s largest health facility.

Gaza officials accused Israel of endangering lives in its raid of the hospital in Khan Younis and turning it into a “military barracks,” while Israel described a “precise and targeted” operation to take out Hamas fighters operating in and around the complex and to search for hostages. The Washington Post could not immediately verify either side’s claims.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said 136 patients and 25 staffers were stuck “without electricity, water, food” and resources for medical needs. The update came a day after the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the hospital is “not functional anymore,” and Gaza officials said eight patients died since Israeli troops stormed the complex on Friday and a power outage shut off the oxygen.

Israel said it was working to ensure that the hospital remains functional and that no civilians are harmed. Israeli forces arrested “hundreds” of suspected militants, according to spokesman Eylon Levy, including at least 20 who Israel believes participated in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack. Levy said Monday that some militants were disguised as health-care workers, adding that troops found “large quantities” of weapons in the hospital and a vehicle allegedly used in the attack on Israel.

Interrogations of suspects led Israel to “confirm” that hostages were held at the hospital, Levy said, while interviews with previously released hostages “yielded valuable information about the conditions in which hostages were held.” Levy said Israel believes that the bodies of deceased hostages were also held there. He did not provide specific evidence from the scene to substantiate the claims.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) that Israeli troops “have operated with great precision” around Nasser and another hospital, al-Amal, to “apprehend” militants, “with no resulting civilian casualties,” a statement from his office said about the senators’ Tel Aviv visit Sunday.

The Gaza Health Ministry and a senior U.N. official said Feb. 18 that there’s no power and not enough staff to keep the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis running. (Video: Reuters)

The Nasser Hospital raid comes as Israeli officials outlined a timetable for a potential ground invasion in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city and possibly Hamas’s final stronghold.

On Sunday, Benny Gantz, opposition leader and member of Israel’s war cabinet, said “if by Ramadan our hostages are not home, the fighting will continue everywhere, to include the Rafah area,” referencing the Muslim holy month of fasting that begins this year on March 10. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to attack Rafah, saying Hamas’s remaining brigades, weapons and smuggling routes are spread throughout the city.

Humanitarian groups have warned that a full-scale Israeli offensive in Rafah, where nearly 1.5 million Palestinians are sheltering, could have disastrous consequences because the medical sector is already stretched to its breaking point.

It was not immediately clear Monday whether humanitarian and medical aid was getting to Nasser Hospital. Tedros said WHO teams were prevented on Friday and Saturday from entering the hospital to check on patients. He said the teams were there “to deliver fuel alongside partners.”

Israel said it delivered humanitarian aid, including medicines, fuel and a backup generator, and accused Hamas of withholding its delivery. Gaza’s Health Ministry accused Israel of “being stubborn about” the entry of aid into the health complex. The Post could not independently verify the claims.

Here’s what else to know

The top U.N. court is set to begin public hearings Monday into the legality of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory. The International Court of Justice kicked off six days of public hearings Monday as it prepares to consider the legality of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory. The proceedings could add to the political pressure on Israel over the war in Gaza, though the focus is on a broader issue: control of the occupied West Bank, annexed East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. The United States is set to participate on Wednesday with other countries. Israel will not attend.

Israel rejected the ICJ proceedings. Netanyahu’s office said in a statement Monday that the hearings were an infringement on “Israel’s right to defend itself against existential threats” and accused Palestinian officials of using the hearings to “dictate the results of the diplomatic settlement without negotiations.”

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki addressed the International Court of Justice on Feb. 19, demanding an end to Israel’s occupation. (Video: International Court of Justice)

The U.N. Security Council is expected to vote again this week on a cease-fire resolution for Gaza. The vote on the resolution drafted by Algeria is scheduled for Tuesday, but the United States — one of five permanent council members with veto power — has said it won’t support the measure.

Israel’s government approved a declaration Sunday that says the country won’t recognize a Palestinian state. Netanyahu said the decision came “in light of remarks that have been heard recently in the international community about an attempt to unilaterally force a Palestinian state on Israel.” A peace plan being developed by the United States and Arab nations calls for a timeline on establishing a Palestinian state.

Norway will help transfer funds frozen by Israel to the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority relies on tax revenue collected by Israel on its behalf to fund public services in the Palestinian territories. But after Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, Israel refused to transfer the share of the funds earmarked for Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority said it would not agree to receive incomplete funds. Now, Norway says the Palestinian Authority agreed to receive the rest of the funds from Israel, with Norway holding the frozen funds until both parties agree to release them.

At least 29,092 people have been killed in Gaza and 69,028 injured since the war began, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack and says that 236 soldiers have been killed since the start of its military operation in Gaza.

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