Israeli forces storm hospital as Khan Younis hit by bloodiest fighting of 2024

January 23, 2024 1:24 pm

Smoke rises during an Israeli ground operation in Khan Younis, as the conflict continues between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, as seen from Rafah [Source: Reuters]

Israeli forces, advancing deep into western Khan Younis in Gaza’s bloodiest fighting so far in January, stormed one hospital and put another under siege on Monday, cutting off the wounded from trauma care, Palestinian officials said.

Troops advanced for the first time into the al-Mawasi district near the Mediterranean Coast, west of Khan Younis, the main city in southern Gaza. There, they stormed the Al-Khair hospital and were arresting medical staff, Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf al Qidra told Reuters.

There was no word from Israel on the situation at the hospital, and the military spokesperson’s office had no comment. The military said later that three Israeli soldiers were killed on Monday in southern Gaza.

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Qidra said at least 50 people were killed overnight in Khan Younis, while the sieges of medical facilities meant dozens of dead and wounded were beyond the reach of rescuers.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said tanks had surrounded another Khan Younis hospital, al-Amal, headquarters of the rescue agency, which had lost contact with staff there.

Israel says Hamas fighters operate in and around hospitals, which Hamas and medical staff deny.

Elad Goren of COGAT, the Israeli defence ministry branch that coordinates with the Palestinians, added that: “A particular effort led by a dedicated team has been put on making sure civilians have access to medical care.”

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Monday said Israel had a right to defend itself but added: “We expect them to do so in accordance with international law and to protect innocent people in hospitals, medical staff and patients as well, as much as possible.”

Residents said the bombardment from air, land and sea was the most intense in southern Gaza since the war began in October.

Video filmed from afar showed scattered civilians wandering around a ghost city crowded with tents, abandoned laundry flapping on lines as gunfire rattled and smoke rose into the sky.

Israel launched an offensive last week to capture Khan Younis, which it now says is the principal headquarters of the Hamas militants responsible for the Oct. 7 attacks on southern Israel that killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies.

On Monday the Israeli Defense Forces said they had found weapons, explosives, rockets and a weapons facility and destroyed tunnel shafts and underground infrastructure in recent days in Khan Younis.