The Israeli military on Monday raided the Al-Shifa hospital in northern Gaza.

Around 30,000 persons, including patients, medical staff and displaced civilians, were trapped inside the hospital complex, Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said.

The Israeli military said that it was conducting a “precise operation” at the hospital. “The operation is based on intelligence information indicating the use of the hospital by senior Hamas terrorists,” it said in a statement.

Israel’s war on Gaza began after Hamas’ incursion into southern Israel on October 7. More than 1,200 persons were killed in Israel in the attack and more than 200 were taken hostage. Some of the hostages were released in November as part of a brief ceasefire agreement in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel and humanitarian aid.

Israel’s military assault on Gaza has led to the death of more than 31,000 persons in the besieged region over the past five months.

On Monday, Israeli military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said that “more than 20 terrorists” were “eliminated” inside the hospital compound, Reuters reported.

Hagari added that over 200 suspects were apprehended and were being questioned. He said that one Israeli soldier was killed in the fighting.

“Hamas tried to reestablish its base in the hospital and use it as a shelter for terrorists on the run,” Hagari said. “We will not allow this and will attack and continue to attack any place Hamas tries to reestablish its grip.”

Gaza’s health ministry said that it had received multiple calls from near the hospital site about dozens of casualties, AFP reported. “No one could transport them to the hospital due to the intensity of gunfire and artillery shelling,” it said.

Reuters quoted the ministry as saying that a fire had broken out at the entrance of the hospital complex. It caused cases of suffocation among the displaced women and children sheltering in the hospital.

Witnesses told AFP that they saw tanks surround the medical facility. They also reported air strikes on the neighbourhood where the hospital is located.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that hospitals must be protected. He also reiterated his demand for a ceasefire.

“Hospitals should never be battlegrounds,” Ghebreyesus said. “We are terribly worried about the situation at Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza, which is endangering health workers, patients and civilians.”

This is the second time that the Israeli military has raided the Al-Shifa hospital complex. It was widely criticised when its troops first raided the complex in November.

Al-Shifa is Gaza’s largest hospital. It is one of the only healthcare facilities that is partially operational in the northern part of the besieged Palestinian enclave, Reuters reported.

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