Fresh Gaza strikes as fears grow for patients in raided hospital


Israel said it had taken into custody 100 people at one of Gaza's main hospitals after troops raided the facility, with fears mounting Saturday for patients and staff trapped inside.

The deadly bombardment of Gaza continued overnight with another 100 people killed in Israeli strikes, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

At least 120 patients and five medical teams are stuck without water, food and electricity in the Nasser hospital in Gaza's main southern city of Khan Yunis, according to the health ministry.

Israel has for weeks concentrated its military operations in Khan Yunis, the hometown of Hamas's Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar, the alleged architect of the October 7 attack that triggered the war.

This week, intense fighting has raged around the Nasser hospital -- one of the Palestinian territory's last remaining major medical facilities that remains even partly operational.

The power was cut and the generators had stopped after the raid, leading to the deaths of six patients due to a lack of oxygen, according to Gaza's health ministry.

"New-born children are at a risk of dying in the next few hours," the ministry warned Saturday.

Israel's army said its troops entered the hospital on Thursday, acting on what it said was "credible intelligence" that hostages seized in the October 7 attack had been held there and that the bodies of some may still be inside.

On Saturday the military said it had detained 100 people from the hospital suspected of "terrorist activity".

The army also said it had seized weapons and retrieved "medications with the names of Israeli hostages" in the hospital.

But the raid has been criticised by medics and the United Nations. The army has insisted it made every effort to keep the hospital supplied with power, including bringing in an alternative generator.

A witness, who declined to be named for safety reasons, told AFP the Israeli forces had shot "at anyone who moved inside the hospital".

- 'Pattern of attacks' -

World Health Organization spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic slammed the operation Friday, saying "more degradation to the hospital means more lives being lost".

"Patients, health workers, and civilians who are seeking refuge in hospitals deserve safety and not a burial in those places of healing."

Doctors Without Borders said its medics had been forced to flee and leave patients behind, with one employee unaccounted for and another detained by Israeli forces.

Roughly 130 hostages are still believed to be in Gaza after Hamas' October 7 attack on Israel, which Israel says resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people mostly civilians.

Dozens of the estimated 250 hostages seized during the attack were freed in exchange for Palestinian prisoners during a week-long truce in November. Israel says 30 of those still in Gaza are presumed dead.

At least 28,775 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israel's subsequent assault on Gaza, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas of using hospitals for military purposes, which the Palestinian Islamist group has denied.

The UN Human Rights Office said Israel's raid on the Nasser hospital appeared to be "part of a pattern of attacks by Israeli forces striking essential life-saving civilian infrastructure in Gaza, especially hospitals".

- 'Dying slowly' -

Witnesses said explosions were heard at dawn in Rafah, where around 1.4 million displaced civilians are trapped after taking refuge in a makeshift encampment by the Egyptian border with dwindling supplies.

"They are killing us slowly," said displaced Palestinian Mohammad Yaghi.

"We are dying slowly due to the scarcity of resources and the lack of medications and treatments."

U.S. President Joe Biden has urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to carry out an offensive on Rafah without a plan to keep civilians safe -- but Netanyahu has insisted he will push ahead with a "powerful" operation there to achieve "complete victory" over Hamas.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Friday that Israel would coordinate with Egypt before launching its operation so as to "not hurt the Egyptian interests."

Biden said Friday he held "extensive" conversations with Netanyahu about the need for a new truce in Gaza to bring the remaining hostages home.

"I feel very strongly about it -- that there has to be a temporary ceasefire to get the prisoners out, to get the hostages out," he said.

Hamas's armed wing has warned that hostages held in Gaza are "struggling to stay alive" as conditions deteriorate due to relentless Israeli bombardments.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Egypt was building a walled camp near the border to accommodate any Palestinians displaced from Gaza, citing Egyptian officials and security analysts.

Satellite images obtained by AFP show machinery building a wall along the highly secure frontier.

Egypt has repeatedly opposed any "forced displacement" from Gaza, warning it could jeopardize its 1979 peace treaty with Israel.