Israel's War On Gaza: Hospital Chief Says 'We Are Minutes Away From Death' As Fighting Rages Nearby

The Israeli government has long maintained that Hamas has been using tunnels and levels under the Gaza Strip's largest hospital, Al Shifa, as a command and control centre. Fighting is currently going on nearby.

Israeli forces operating in the Gaza Strip in the ongoing war with Hamas.

As intense fighting between the Israeli forces and Hamas personnel rages nearby in the Gaza City, the chief of the largest hospital in the region on Saturday said they are "minutes away from death" and have been surrounded. 

In recent days, there have also been reports of projectiles landing in the premises of the hospitals in Gaza City that reportedly resulted in casualties. 

The development comes as Israeli actions in the ongoing war come under increasing scrutiny across the world. While the Arab World has been joined by French President Emmanuel Macron in calls for a ceasefire, the Israeli government has only agreed to hourslong daily pauses. 

Al Jazeera on Saturday reported Al Shifa Hospital Director Muhammad Abu Salmiya as saying that the facility has been surrounded by the Israeli forces.

"We are totally cut off from the whole world, we are minutes away from imminent death. We are stranded, we sent many SOS to the whole world – there has been no response, no response," said Abu Salmiya to Al Jazeera. 

Abu Salmiya further said, "All I can say is that we’ve started to lose lives. Patients are dying by the minute, victims and wounded are also dying – even babies in the incubators. We lost a baby in the incubator, we also lost a young man in the intensive care unit. The hospital compound is cordoned off and the buildings of the hospital are targeted. Any moving person within the compound is targeted. The Israeli occupation forces are outside, preventing any person to move. One member of a medical crew who tried to reach the incubator to lend a helping hand to the babies born inside was shot and killed. In addition to that, some of the victims who were already injured suffered bone injuries as a result of sniper gunfire. The hospital is left without power, internet and even without water and medical supplies."

The Israeli government has long maintained that Hamas has been using tunnels and levels under the Gaza Strip's largest hospital, Al Shifa, as a command and control centre. Fighting is currently going on nearby. Besides the Al Shifa Hospital, two other facilities in the area, Rantisi and Al Nasr hospitals, have also been surrounded.

The claims of the Israeli and Hamas officials have not been independently verified. 

Separately, Abu Salmiya also told The New York Times that the hospital premises were struck four times on Friday. A video said to have been verified by the paper on Friday showed a projectile landing in the open grounds of the hospital premises in which at least one casualty appeared to be visible. 

"The chief of Al Shifa Hospital said it was struck four times on Friday, killing seven people, with several others wounded. The sources of the strikes and the extent of the damage were not immediately known...Videos verified by The New York Times show a projectile streaking out of the predawn darkness and into the hospital complex. It was not clear what kind of weapon was involved, who fired it or what damage it did," reported NYT on Saturday. 

Separately, the Israeli military has said that it is operating in areas close to the Al Shifa Hospital, which it has dubbed as the "military quarter" of Gaza City. Hamas has long been known to embed itself deeply into the civilian settlements across Gaza. It also uses a widespread network of tunnels, some as deep as 130 ft underground, to move around and store weapons and hide personnel. While the Israeli military has said that it is aware of the "sensitivity of the hospitals", it said that if Hamas personnel attack from the hospitals, it would have to do the needful. Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant also said, "The terrorists located in the basements of Shifa tonight can hear the thundering sound of our tanks and bulldozers."

While the claim of Hamas using the hospital as a base has gained traction lately, it is not for the first time that such an assessment has been made public. As far as in 2009, within just two years of Hamas taking over Gaza, the Israeli security apparatus had concluded that several top leaders of the group were based in the underground levels of the hospital complex.

"During a cabinet meeting a week ago, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin said senior Hamas officials found refuge in the hospital basement because they know Israel would not target it, due to the patients in the upper floors. Palestinian sources told Haaretz that not all the senior Hamas leaders are hiding in one place. Rather, they have spread out, and some are constantly changing locations. Some of the bunkers they are using were linked by tunnels Hamas built in recent years," said a report in the Haaretz paper in 2009.

Separately, the Israeli military said it captured a Hamas base in the Gaza City in the latest round of fighting and around 150 personnel of the designated terrorist group were killed in the fighting. 

Israel's War on Gaza began on October 7 when Hamas and allied groups attacked Israel and went on a rampage across southern part of the country under the cover of around 3,000 rockets that rained all over the country. The Israeli government says at least 1,600 were killed, around 6,900 were injured, and at least 240 were abducted and taken to Gaza as hostages. In response, Israel launched intense aerial and bombardment of Gaza to take down Hamas leaders and facilities as part of the long war to defeat Hamas and remove it from Gaza's leadership. As part of the war, Israel also launched a ground operation around two weeks back, which was a watered-down version of the full-fledged invasion anticipated for weeks. 

While Hamas has been hit hard in Israeli attacks, widespread civilian casualties have been reported in Gaza, with the Hamas-run Gazan authorities saying over 11,000 Palestinians have been killed, over 4,500 of whom are children. Moreover, around 1.5 million Palestinians are estimated to have been displaced internally in Gaza. The region is also short of food, medicines, and fuel amid a land blockade and the trickle of humanitarian aid is nowhere close to the levels envisioned by the United Nations (UN) agencies. Estimates also suggest that several thousands of houses, housing buildings, and schools have also been damaged fully or partially. 


The grave humanitarian crisis in Gaza has led to calls for an immediate ceasefire and has diluted the international support for Israel in its war against Hamas as massive rallies frequently take place in the West against the Israeli war efforts. Israel has, however, rejected calls for ceasefires, but has so far accepted the US-led Western suggestions to reduce the invasion to a narrower and focused ground operation, enable more humanitarian aid into Gaza, and institute daily pauses in attacks for humanitarian purposes.