Israeli forces have bombed an ambulance convoy of critically wounded patients in front of a major Gaza City hospital, Palestinian health officials have said.
An Israeli drone strike hit the entrance of al-Shifa Hospital on Friday, Al Jazeera reports. The raid hit a medical convoy, with ambulances carrying roughly 15 to 20 critically wounded patients, according to Gaza health ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qudra, while the Palestinian Red Crescent has said that the area was heavily crowded with civilians.
The exact death toll is still unknown, though al-Qudra says that the strike killed several people and injured dozens more. Videos of the aftermath appear to show a number of dead bodies surrounding the ambulances.
The Palestinian Red Crescent has said that the Israeli military targeted the ambulance in the strike, and video of one ambulance shows heavy damage, as well as blood splatters across the outside of the vehicle. Health officials had planned to bring the patients, and hundreds of others, to the southern Rafah crossing with Egypt in order for them to get care after Israel’s blockade of electricity and fuel forced al-Shifa to shut down one of its two generators on Thursday.
Al-Shifa is the largest hospital in Gaza, housing 5,000 patients as well as roughly 50,000 people who have been sheltering in or around the hospital, believing it to be safer than other areas. Israeli forces had ordered people to evacuate al-Shifa before bombing the people evacuating
In the past few days, Israeli warplanes have been circling closer to al-Shifa Hospital and al-Quds Hospital, in the Tel al-Hawa area of Gaza City, which the Palestine Red Crescent says was also ordered to evacuate days ago. Health care workers and officials have said that it’s impossible to evacuate the hospitals without patients dying as a result.
Around the time of the al-Shifa strike, Israeli forces also dropped a bomb near Indonesian Hospital in northern Gaza. The Indonesian Hospital was forced to shut down its main generator on Thursday after running out of fuel.
The strikes came just before U.S. State Department Secretary Antony Blinken pledged that Israel “will never stand alone” and affirmed his belief in Israel’s “right to defend itself.” Officials have said that the U.S. is flying drones over Gaza in order to aid Israel.
Experts say that Israel has been laying the groundwork for the bombing of hospitals, and released a video earlier this week showing an animated rendering of tunnels that they say Hamas has built underneath al-Shifa Hospital, appearing to imply that bombing the hospital — and the civilians inside — would be justified.
Israeli forces said the same of their bombardment of Jabalia refugee camp this week, claiming after their first attack on Tuesday — in which they dropped at least 5 bombs, causing 50,000 square feet of damage — that they had killed a Hamas leader in that raid, which Palestinian health officials said killed 110 civilians and wounded hundreds more.
Then, after purportedly killing the Hamas leader — even though Hamas has said the leader is still alive — the Israeli military bombed Jabalia refugee camp again, killing and wounding yet more people.
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