Palestinian armed group Hamas has rejected Israeli claims that it is using hospitals for military purposes, as Israel escalates its bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip.
Hamas political official Ezzat El-Reshiq on Friday denied allegations that the group was using the al-Shifa hospital as a shield for its underground military infrastructure, and said the claims have “no basis in truth”.
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Israeli spokesman Daniel Hagari said earlier that Hamas had “turned hospitals into command and control centres and hideouts for Hamas terrorists and commanders”. Hagari also accused Hamas of storing fuel for military operations inside hospitals in Gaza.
The al-Shifa Medical Complex is the largest medical health institution within the Gaza Strip. Located in Gaza City, it includes three specialised hospitals; the Surgery Hospital, the Internal Medicine Hospital, and the Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital.
Thousands of Palestinian civilians have sought refuge at the hospital since Israel launched a devastating assault on Gaza on October 7 after Hamas attacked southern Israel.
El-Reshiq warned that the claim was an attempt to “pave the way for targeting a hospital that contains thousands of wounded and shelters more than 40,000 displaced people”.
The rejection came as Israel escalated its bombardment of Gaza, expanding air raids and artillery fire in a fierce barrage that knocked out phone and internet services across the Palestinian territory.
Hagari said Israeli ground forces were “expanding operations” in Gaza.
Earlier on Friday, chief of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) Philippe Lazzarini said that aid meant for Palestinians in Gaza was not being diverted for use by Hamas.
“We have solid monitoring mechanisms … UNRWA does not and will not divert any humanitarian aid into the wrong hands,” he said.
Hospitals in Gaza have proven an especially tense flashpoint amid Israel’s continuing fighting with Hamas, which launched an assault on southern Israel on October 7 that killed more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians.
Israel has responded by placing Gaza under total siege, cutting off access to electricity, water, food, and fuel, and conducting a military assault that has pushed hospitals and medical workers to their limits.
More than 100 health workers have been killed, and 15 hospitals out of 35 are out of service, alongside 57 basic healthcare services that have also stopped functioning. Palestinian authorities have said that 7,326 people have been killed and more than 18,967 injured since the fighting began.
Israel and Palestinian authorities have also traded accusations over a blast at the al-Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza, with Palestinian authorities accusing Israel of hitting the hospital with an air raid and Israel stating that the deadly explosion was the result of an errant rocket fired by the group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). The United Nations has called for an independent investigation.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies