Israel carried out a nighttime attack on Gaza al-Shifa hospital

image source, Good pictures

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Al-Shifa Hospital (pictured in December 2023) has struggled to continue operating in recent months, humanitarian groups say.

Israeli forces launched an overnight assault on Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, reportedly with tanks and heavy gunfire at the facility.

An Israel Defense Forces spokesman said the IDF was carrying out a “high-precision operation in low-lying areas” of the hospital.

The IDF said “senior Hamas terrorists have regrouped” inside the hospital and are using it to carry out attacks.

Witnesses described a state of panic inside the compound in Gaza City.

“Tanks are surrounding us. We are hiding inside a tent. We hear tank fire near the compound,” one man said in a recorded call with his brother, posted on a WhatsApp group and heard by the BBC.

Heavy gunfire was heard around the hospital in unverified footage posted on social media.

In another voice message to journalists from inside the hospital, Muhammad al-Sayed said: “Soldiers inside the compound are dead and wounded, and soldiers arrested some young people. The situation here is catastrophic.”

The IDF has not publicly signaled in advance that it plans to launch a new operation in al-Shifa.

In a video message released early in the morning, IDF chief spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said the Israeli military was responding to “conclusive intelligence that demands immediate action.”

He said the hospital could continue to operate during the trial and told patients and staff they would not have to leave.

Displaced people sheltering in the compound will be able to leave through the hospital's exit, he said, before calling on Hamas to “surrender immediately”.

A statement from the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry called the move “a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law”.

Hundreds of displaced Palestinians have taken refuge in the hospital, which was attacked by Israeli forces during the clashes.

Al-Shifa Hospital was Gaza's main medical facility before the conflict, but its operations have been severely affected after months of fighting.

image source, Good pictures

Hospitals have protected status during times of war under international humanitarian law – but can lose that protection in limited circumstances if they are used to commit an act “harmful to the enemy”.

Israel has long accused Hamas of using medical facilities for its operations, which the Iranian-backed militant group denies.

The IDF said it found a network of tunnels and weapons under a hospital used by Hamas when it raided al-Shifa in November 2023.

Israeli troops launched a major military operation in February on the grounds of Nasser Hospital, Gaza's second largest medical facility.

The IDF said a raid at Nasser Hospital found weapons and evidence the hostages had kept at the facility.

The Israeli military launched a campaign in Gaza after Hamas gunmen killed around 1,200 people and took 253 hostages in southern Israel on October 7. More than 31,300 people have been killed in the Palestinian territories so far, according to Gaza's health ministry.

Additional reporting by Rushdie Abouloupe

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