Israeli tanks have surrounded a Gaza hospital, its director told CNN, as the territory’s largest healthcare facility came under a reported “bombardment,” heightening fears Friday that Israel’s military campaign is further endangering Gazan patients and medical staff.
Mustafa al-Kahlout, who heads the Al Nasr hospital and Al Rantisi Pediatric hospital in northern Gaza, told CNN that they were surrounded and asked for the Red Cross to assist with an evacuation. “We are completely surrounded, there are tanks outside the hospital, and we cannot leave,” al-Kahlout said.
The hospital complex is close to Sheikh Radwan neighborhood and Al Shati camp, where ground fighting was reported by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas separately. “We do not have electricity, no oxygen for the patients, we do not have medicine and water,” al-Kahlout said. “We do not know our fate.”
His call comes after strikes were reported near several other hospitals in northern Gaza, including al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, the territory’s largest medical facility.
A World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson said Friday that al-Shifa was “coming under bombardment,” adding that 20 hospitals in the Gaza Strip were “out of action.”
Asked about a potential Israeli airstrike on al-Shifa hospital on Friday, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said in a briefing: “I haven’t got the detail on al-Shifa but we do know they are coming under bombardment.”
The Israeli military claimed late Friday that a misfired projectile launched from inside Gaza was responsible for the strike on the al-Shifa hospital.
“Earlier today, the IDF received reports of a hit on the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. The Hamas-run media office in the Gaza Strip immediately claimed that this was a strike carried out by the IDF,” IDF spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht said in a statement sent to CNN.
The IDF said that an examination of its operational systems had indicated that “a misfired projectile launched by terrorist organizations inside the Gaza Strip hit the Shifa Hospital.”
Hecht went on to claim that the projectile had been aimed at “IDF troops operating in the vicinity.”
Several social media videos showed people injured in what was described as al-Shifa’s outpatient clinic.
It is unclear what struck the hospital, but the videos show injured people lying on the ground of the outdoor clinic. Witnesses in the videos are saying it was strikes on the area. CNN could not verify it was strikes.
In a Facebook statement, Al Awda hospital in northern Gaza said that due to the “targeting (of) the vicinity of Al Awda Hospital… and the vicinity of the Indonesian Hospital” by Israeli forces, 10 of its employees were injured, infrastructure was hit and nine vehicles were impacted.
This included “two ambulances that were completely damaged,” the hospital statement said.
In a statement Saturday, Doctors Without Borders said it had lost contact with its staff inside Al-Shifa Hospital. “Over the last few hours, the attacks against Al-Shifa Hospital have dramatically intensified. Staff at the hospital reported a catastrophic situation inside,” the humanitarian group said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
The group said it was extremely concerned about the safety of staff and patients at the medical facility, some of whom were in critical condition and unable to move or evacuate.
“There is a patient who needs surgery. There is a patient who’s already asleep in our department. We cannot evacuate ourselves and [leave] these people inside. As a doctor, I swear to help the people who need help,” the group quoted Dr. Mohammed Obeid, a surgeon at the hospital, as saying.
At the Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City, meanwhile, an imminent shutdown could lead to the death of patients, including babies, the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) warned in a statement early Saturday local time.
“Al-Quds Hospital is at risk of closure in the upcoming 3 hours due to the depletion of fuel supplies and the non-arrival of aid,” the PRCS said. “500 patients and injured will be deprived from medical care. Those who are at the ICU and babies in incubators will lose their lives.”
On Wednesday, the PRCS said it was scaling back most of its operations amid fuel shortages to ensure the provision of minimal services.
The IDF has not commented on the incidents but has repeatedly called on civilians to move south of Wadi Gaza, a waterway bisecting the center of the Strip, as it intensifies its assault on Gaza City and the north of the territory.
The IDF has said Hamas is embedding itself in civilian infrastructure and that it will strike Hamas “wherever necessary.” Earlier this month, the IDF released aerial images that it claimed showed rocket launchers and an opening to a tunnel near a pair of Gaza hospitals. CNN cannot verify those claims. The Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health and Hamas-controlled government media have rejected claims that hospitals are being used as shields for attacks.
Majority of Gaza hospitals have stopped functioning
Israel began its offensive inside Gaza, following the October 7 Hamas attacks. While Israel had previously said 1,400 people were killed in the attacks, officials said Friday they now believe the total number of people killed to be around 1,200.
The death toll includes foreign workers and other foreign nationals, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat confirmed.
The current estimate of 1,200 is not a final number, Haiat emphasized, because some of the bodies are yet to be identified.
The Israeli military has since stepped up its campaign on northern Gaza in recent days, effectively cutting the territory in two, with its ground operations and fiercest aerial bombardment apparently concentrated in the north.
The offensive has so far killed more than 11,000 Palestinians, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah, drawing from sources in the Hamas-controlled territory. Israeli strikes have killed at least 4,506 children and 3,027 women, according to the ministry, which said that over 27,000 other people have been injured. CNN cannot independently verify these numbers.
But the impact on healthcare facilities has raised concerns about the dire humanitarian situation for those remaining in northern Gaza. The majority of hospitals in Gaza – 18 out of 35 – have stopped functioning, the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah, which draws its figures from the Hamas-controlled territory, said on Thursday.
In addition, 71% of all primary-care facilities have shut down due to damage or lack of fuel, the ministry said. Its statement said that the hospitals that remain open are limited in what they can provide and are shutting gradually downwards.
Meanwhile, Volker Türk, the top United Nations human rights official, on Friday raised doubts over Israel’s unilateral establishment of “safe zones” in Gaza, saying that nowhere within the territory was safe for civilians.
Streams of Palestinians – including women, children and the elderly – are making their way south in a growing exodus along daily evacuation corridors announced by the Israeli military.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday said that “far too many Palestinians have been killed, far too many have suffered these past weeks” – one of his most direct condemnations of the civilian toll that the Israeli offensive has taken in Gaza.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
CNN’s Zeena Saifi, Abeer Salman, Lucas Lilieholm, Eyad Kourdi and Nic Robertson contributed reporting
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