Shifa Hospital deemed 'Death Zone', Netanyahu rejects ceasefire calls - Day 44 as it happened

Ahram Online , Sunday 19 Nov 2023

On the 44th day of the war, Israel killed 13 Palestinians in a strike at Nuseirat camp, following the mass killing in Jabalia, while, the World Health Organization labeled Al-Shifa hospital a "death zone" after a visit Saturday and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu rejects mounting international pressure for a ceasefire.

This picture taken from southern Israel shows smoke rising above buildings during an Israeli strike on the Gaza Strip on November 19, 2023. AFP


21:00 French President Emmanuel Macron told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu there were "too many civilian losses" in Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza, his office said Sunday.

Macron, whose country is a firm ally of Israel, reminded Netanyahu of the "absolute necessity to distinguish terrorists from the population" and "the importance of achieving an immediate humanitarian truce leading to a ceasefire".

French CGT trade union General Secretary Sophie Binet (C) listens to France Palestine President Bertrand Heilbronn (L) speaking as they take part in a demonstration to demand an "immediate ceasefire in Gaza" organised by French CGT, Solidaires and FSU Unions in Paris, on November 18, 2023 AFP

Macron also condemned violence against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank in a conversation with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, the French presidency said.

The French leader told Netanyahu about his "great concern over the escalation in violence against Palestinian civilians" in the West Bank and called for calm.

Macron also told Abbas of "the need for the Palestinian Authority and all countries in the region to unequivocally and with the greatest firmness condemn the terrorist attack carried out by Hamas in Israel on October 7".

19:50 The Palestinian health ministry said the death toll from Israeli attacks had reached 13,000 since the war on Gaza began on October 7.

The ministry added that more than 5,500 children were among the dead, alongside 3,500 women, with 30,000 more people wounded. 



19:45 The Israeli army said five more soldiers had been killed in fighting in the Gaza Strip, raising the number of troop deaths there to 64 since the war on Gaza began.

19:00 France is preparing to send its Dixmude helicopter carrier to the eastern Mediterranean to offer medical assistance in Gaza, the office of the French president said.

The Dixmude will set sail "at the start of the week and arrive in Egypt in the coming days," President Emmanuel Macron's office added.

A charter flight carrying more than 10 tonnes of medical supplies is also planned for the start of the week.

"France will also contribute to the European effort with medical equipment on board European flights on November 23 and 30," the presidential office said.

It added that "France is mobilizing all its available means to contribute to the evacuation of wounded and sick children requiring emergency care from the Gaza Strip to its hospitals".



18:00 Two Saudi relief planes arrived at El-Arish International Airport in Egypt to be transported to the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, reported the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

The first plane carried 39 tons of relief aid, including food and shelter materials.

The second one carried two ambulances out of twenty scheduled to arrive successively, in preparation for transporting them to the affected Palestinian people inside the Gaza Strip, according to the SPA.

The assistance is part of the fundraising campaign launched by the kingdom to help the people of Gaza.

Egypt has designated North Sinai's El-Arish International Airport for receiving international humanitarian assistance bound for Gaza.

16:45 Ahead of World Children's Day on 20 November, the Arab League voiced profound concern over the “distressing plight of children in the Gaza Strip.”

The organization said it appeals to the international community to fulfil their obligations to safeguard Palestinian children amidst ongoing atrocities, genocide, and heinous crimes committed by the Israeli army, which has already claimed the lives of thousands of Palestinian children.

The league called on the international community to enforce resolutions and laws protecting women and children.

It also condemned the “inhumane and unconscionable acts of violence perpetrated by the Israeli occupation against the Palestinian people, which threaten their very existence and future.”

Acknowledging the urgency of the situation, the pan-Arab organization urged joint and resolute efforts to prevent further loss of innocent lives among Palestinian children.

In commemoration of World Children’s Day, the league will release a video documenting the arduous hardships and challenges faced by Palestinian children in Gaza.

15:45 Al Arabiya TV reports that an Israeli ship “Galaxy Leader” was hijacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in the Red Sea, with 22 people on board. 

Israeli officials confirmed the rebels' seizure of the vessel, partially owned by an Israeli company, as reported by Axios.

However, the Israeli army refuted the vessel's Israeli ownership. "It is not an Israeli ship," the occupation army posted on X.

"The ship departed Turkey on its way to India, staffed by civilians of various nationalities, not including Israelis," it added.

According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the ship "was chartered from an Israeli company and has an international crew." 

The nationality of the crew remains undisclosed.

Determining precise ship ownership can be challenging due to multiple companies holding stakes or leasing these vessels.

Several media sources have linked the ship's ownership to Israeli shipping businessman Rami Ungar.

15:30 The UNRWA commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini described the Israeli double attacks on school-turned-shelter in northern Gaza as "cruel."

“Once again, shelters meant to provide safety and protection to civilians have been hit, killing many people, including children. These acts not only blatantly contravene the rules of war, they also show a total disregard for humanity," he said

He added: "This vicious war is reaching a point of no return when all rules are disrespected, in overt disregard for civilian lives.”

You can read the full statement here

13:05 The Director General of Hospitals in Gaza, Mohammed Zaqout said that 31 premature babies at Al-Shifa hospital had been evacuated from the facility, invaded and occupied by Israel.

Initially, he said that 32 infants are to be evacuated.

He told AFP that they have been evacuated along with three doctors and two nurses, and "preparations are underway" for them to enter Egypt.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, said further missions are being planned to urgently transport remaining patients and health staff out of Al-Shifa Hospital, pending guarantees of safe passage by parties to the conflict.

"We’re deeply moved and impressed by the extraordinary bravery and service of the health workers in Gaza, who continue to serve under the most dire and difficult circumstances," he posted on X. 

12:40 The Israeli occupation army announced the death of 3 officers and soldiers in clashes in northern Gaza, raising today's toll to 5 casualties.

It brings the total number of Israeli soldiers killed to 62 since Israel launched its war on Gaza.

Al-Qaasam brigades released new footage showing attacks on Israeli soldiers, tanks, and vehicles in Gaza, revealing military uniforms of several Israeli soldiers, their dog tags, and military equipment.

11:15 A spokesman for Yemen's Houthi military, Yahya Sarea, said on Sunday the group will target all ships owned or operated by Israeli companies or carrying the Israeli flag, according to the group's Telegram channel.

The spokesman called on all countries to withdraw their citizens working on the crews of any such ships.

10:45 The Israeli army said its air defenses intercepted a suspicious aerial target, apparently a drone, that entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon.

It added that troops were striking targets in Lebanon in response.

The incident set off sirens in several northern settlements close to the borders between the two countries.

10:36 The Director General of Hospitals in Gaza, Mohammed Zaqout announced that a team from the World Health Organization will specifically evacuate 32 of the 36 premature babies from the Al-Shifa Complex today using 6 ambulances.

He said that the other four infants died today. 

The evacuation of the remaining patients will commence in a phased manner starting tomorrow, he said in an interview with Al Jazeera.

The director highlighted that apart from two small hospitals—Kamal Al-Oudwani and the Indonesian hospital—all other hospitals in Gaza are currently out of service.

10:00 Haaretz Israeli newspaper has admitted that the Israeli army did in fact target its own civilians participating at the  Nova music festival, on October 7, during Hamas' Al Aqsa Flood operation on Gaza envelope. 

“According to a police source, the investigation also indicates that an IDF combat helicopter that arrived to the scene and fired at terrorists [Resistance groups] there apparently also hit some festival participants," Haaretz says.

The growing assessment in Israel's security establishment, the media outlet says, is that Hamas "didn’t have advance knowledge" about the music festival.

9:48 A young Palestinian man was shot and killed by Israeli occupation forces in the early morning in the Dheisha refugee camp, south of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian security sources.

WAFA correspondent reported that the young man succumbed to his injuries after being shot in the head by the occupation forces during confrontations that erupted in the camp following an Israeli military incursion.

The Israeli occupation forces also shot and killed a disabled Palestinian man during an ongoing raid into the city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank, according to medical sources.

During the night, Israeli occupation forces, accompanied by a military D9 bulldozer, launched a large-scale attack in Jenin, deploying in various neighborhoods and positioning snipers on the rooftops of several homes and buildings.

Confrontations erupted between local residents and Israeli forces in various areas of the city and the refugee camp during the raid, and are continuing until this moment, according to the Palestinian news agency.

9:40 The director of the UNRWA in Gaza, Thomas White said the daily resupply at Rafah makes fuel management very complicated, with Israeli authorities restricting fuel.

He noted on his account on X, that "many facilities will be reaching critical levels on a daily basis and our tanker fleet will effectively be doubling the number of fuel runs to key facilities."

The UNRWA says that without a full amount of fuel: "People only have 2/3 daily needs of clean drinking water, Gaza will be flooded with sewage- increasing risks of diseases as 70 percent of the solid waste was not removed.

9:30 Ministers of Foreign Affairs from Arab and Islamic countries, including the Egyptian minister Sameh Shoukry, will visit China on Monday on the first stop of a tour aimed at ending the war in Gaza.

The tour will be the first step in carrying out decisions reached at a joint Arab and Islamic summit held in Riyadh this month.

"The first stop will be in China, then we will move to other capitals to convey a clear message that a ceasefire must be announced immediately, and let in aid," the Saudi ministry said on X.

9:15 According to a report by the Washington Post Israel, Hamas, and the US are on the verge of a deal to release women and children detained since 7 October in exchange for a five-day pause in the Israeli war.

On Saturday, Brett McGurk, the White House’s National Security Council coordinator for the Middle East suggested it would need to be completed before the entry of large amounts of desperately needed aid.

9:05 Fifteen Palestinians were killed early on Sunday in Israeli air bombardments of the central and southern Gaza strip, the Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.

Thirteen were killed in an attack on a home in Nuseirat camp in central Gaza, while a woman and her child were killed by an Israeli airstrike that targeted another home near the European Hospital in Khan Younis, WAFA said.

9:02 Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh calls for an urgent meeting of the follow-up committee endorsed by the Arab and Islamic Summit "to implement its decisions to stop the ongoing aggression and break the siege on the Gaza Strip."

According to a Hamas statement, Haniyeh made phone calls with several leaders and officials at the regional and international levels following Israel’s brutal massacres in two schools sheltering thousands of civilians: Al-Fakhoura and Tal Al-Zaatar.

The phone calls were conducted hours after the Israeli army committed another war crime by forcibly evacuating the Al-Shifa Medical Complex of medical personnel, patients, and the wounded.

9:00 The World Health Organization (WHO) described Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City as a "death zone" after a visit to the complex on Saturday.

A UN team led by the WHO visited the hospital for one hour following its occupation and forced the evacuation of about 2,500 displaced people, mobile patients, and medical staff by the Israeli army on Saturday.

The team saw evidence of shelling and gunfire and observed a mass grave at the hospital's entrance, where they were told more than 80 Palestinians were buried.

Those left included 32 babies in extremely critical condition, trauma patients with severely infected wounds, and others with spinal injuries who are unable to move.

25 medical staff remained, along with the patients.

Read the full joint UN humanitarian assessment here 

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