Israel hits new hospital in Gaza; WHO says situation 'catastrophic' - Day 45 as it happened

Ahram Online , Monday 20 Nov 2023

The Israeli army warned residents of Jabalia, Gaza's largest refugee camp, and a nearby coastal camp to evacuate. More than 80 were killed in twin strikes on school-shelters on Saturday.

A Palestinian children look for salvageable items in the rubble of a building destroyed during Israeli strikes on the southern Gaza Strip, on November 20, 2023. AFP


23:10 The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which helped arrange the release of four Israeli hostages held by Hamas, has met with the militant group’s supreme leader Ismail Haniyeh.

Mirjana Spoljaric traveled Monday to Qatar and met with the Hamas leader as part of the ICRC’s efforts to ensure respect for international humanitarian law.

ICRC has repeatedly called for the release of hostages and has been seeking access for its teams to visit hostages and deliver medication, as well as to help the captives communicate with their families.

Spoljaric has met with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and relatives of some hostages in recent weeks at ICRC’s Geneva headquarters.

22:00 The French Embassy in Cairo announced on Monday that an 11-ton shipment of humanitarian aid for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip arrived at El-Arish airport. 

The aid, which includes medicines, equipment, and emergency medical supplies, is intended to treat approximately 1000 seriously injured individuals, equivalent to two mobile health units.

21:10 The World Health Organization warned that health services in Gaza had suffered “catastrophic” damage, with most hospitals no longer functioning.

“We now have 1.7 million people displaced so we have twice or three times the population (in the south of Gaza), using one-third of the hospital beds in less than a third of the hospitals available,” Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, told a United Nations briefing, speaking from Geneva.

“Even if tomorrow morning, this were to end in terms of a ceasefire, we still have a huge problem on our hands.”

Ryan said the services in the territory were already unable to provide care for more complex medical cases – including care for most cancer and kidney dialysis patients – and would likely be overwhelmed by some 5,500 births expected in the next month.

Plans by the Israeli military to push further south, he said, would worsen health conditions even further.

“The hospital situation – the primary health care system situation – in Gaza is catastrophic and it is the worst you can imagine (in the) north," Ryan said.

20:35 Israeli shelling hit the home of a Lebanese legislator from a political party allied with Hezbollah on Monday. No one was hurt.

Kabalan Kabalan, a senior official of the Shiite Muslim Amal group of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, told The Associated Press he was not at home when the shelling hit the border village of Mais al-Jabal.

Tension has been rising along the Lebanon-Israel border since the outbreak of the war on 7 October. More than 13,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza in the ensuing Israeli bombardment, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group has been attacking Israeli posts along the border since last month, and attacks have intensified in recent days.

The shelling of Mais al-Jabal came hours after Hezbollah fighters fired two heavy Burkan rockets at an Israeli post along the border, causing heavy damage. Hezbollah also said that it attacked an Israeli post with three suicide drones near the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona.

Israeli airstrikes and shelling struck several areas along the Lebanese side of the border. The Israeli military said 25 shells were fired from Lebanon, with some intercepted and others falling in an open area.

19:30  US President Joe Biden said Monday he believes a deal to free captives in Gaza is close, as hopes grew for a Qatari-mediated accord to release some captives in exchange for a pause in fighting.

"I believe so," Biden said, before holding up crossed fingers, when asked whether a deal was near during a Thanksgiving turkey pardoning ceremony at the White House.

19:00  Gaza's government said Monday the death toll in the Palestinian territory had passed 13,300 since the Israeli war on Gaza began on October 7.

The government said more than 5,600 children were among the dead, alongside 3,550 women, with another 31,000 people wounded. 

17:20 The president of Cyprus says his country is ready to begin shipping significant quantities of humanitarian aid to Gaza using shallow-draft vessels able to reach Gazan shores once conditions on the ground allow it.

President Nikos Christodoulides said Cyprus’ initiative for a maritime corridor to Gaza from the Cypriot port of Larnaca, about 230 miles (370 kilometers) away, is the “only one currently being discussed on an international level” as a feasible way to supplement the trickle of assistance reaching Gaza's Palestinian population through Egypt’s Rafah checkpoint.

He said in an interview Monday that planning for the aid link is essentially completed and assistance can begin to flow when a pause in fighting is declared.

Christodoulides, who has been in regular contact with the Israeli government about the plan, said getting a go-ahead for the start of the aid shipments is a complicated matter involving Israeli military operations in Gaza and intricate negotiations over the captives being held by Hamas.

He said a key Israeli sensitivity about the security of the shipments has been addressed through an invitation to officials from Israel, the US, and European countries to join Cypriot agents in vetting all aid earmarked for Gaza so nothing reaches the territory that could be weaponized by Hamas.

15:30 Japan has been "directly approaching" Yemen’s Houthi rebels in a bid to secure the release of the Galaxy Leader, a cargo ship that was hijacked in the Red Sea on Sunday.

Tokyo said it is also "communicating with Israel" as it seeks to secure the release of the ship, owned by Israeli businessman Abraham Rami Ungar and operated by a Japanese firm Nippon Yusen.

The Yemeni rebel group attacked the vessel while it was en route to India from Turkey in response, it said, to the “heinous acts” being committed by Israel in Gaza.

Following the attack, Houthi Military Spokesperson Yahya Saree posted on X: "If the international community is concerned about regional security and stability, rather than expanding the conflict, it should put an end to Israel’s aggression against Gaza."

The commander of the Houthi’s coastal defence brigade issued a stern warning on Monday regarding "any foreign intervention in Yemen's territorial waters or its islands." He emphasized, on Yemen TV, their "possession of suitable weapons and missiles to address and counteract any potential developments."

"Israeli ships are legitimate targets," the headline of the Yemini newspaper "26 September" read in today's edition.

15:26 Senior American president adviser Amos Hochstein arrived in Israel on Monday for talks with senior Israeli officials on preventing a war between Israel and Lebanon, two US and Israeli officials told Axios.

US officials say there is growing anxiety in the White House that Israeli military action in Lebanon is exacerbating tensions along the border, which could lead to a regional war.

Some in the Biden administration are concerned Israel is trying to provoke Hezbollah and create a pretext for a wider war in Lebanon that could draw the U.S. and other countries further into the conflict. Israeli officials outrightly deny this, Axios reports.

15:15 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will host a meeting in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss the situation in Gaza with foreign ministers from members of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told state RIA News Agency.

Arab and Muslim ministers called on Monday for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, as their delegation visited Beijing on the first leg of a tour to push for an end to hostilities and to allow humanitarian aid into the devastated Palestinian territory.

The delegation is set to meet officials representing each of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

14:15 At least four people were killed and dozens wounded in an Israeli airstrike on a residential home in Rafah, southern Gaza, Palestinian media reported.

13:35 Palestinian officials said a field hospital sent by Jordan entered Gaza on Monday, the first since the Israeli war on the strip erupted.

"The hospital will be established in Khan Younis, to receive the wounded and the sick, under catastrophic conditions which southern hospitals are experiencing, with the influx of hundreds of wounded each day and continued aggressive aerial and artillery strikes," said Mohammed Zaqout, director-general of Gaza hospitals.

Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II arrived at Al-Arish Airport onboard a Jordanian military plane, accompanied by medical personnel who will staff the field hospital, Al-Qahera News reported.

The Jordanian Al-Mamlaka channel said that 40 trucks carrying hospital equipment have arrived in the Gaza Strip via the Rafah crossing in Egypt, noting that the setup process will take 48 hours.

13:30 45 days into the war, approximately 1.7 million individuals, which accounts for nearly three-quarters of Gaza's population, have been displaced.

Around 900,000 people are seeking refuge in overcrowded UN-operated shelters, while hundreds of thousands are left homeless, living on the streets, as reported by the United Nations.

13:24 Indonesia Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi on Monday condemned Israel’s attack on the Indonesian Hospital in Gaza. 

“The attack is a clear violation of international humanitarian laws. All countries, especially those that have close relations with Israel, must use all their influence and capabilities to urge Israel to stop its atrocities,” Reuters reported she said in a statement.

13:15 Al-Qahera news is airing footage of the arrival of 29 Palestinian premature babies at the Rafah border crossing for treatment in Egypt.

An initial 31 babies were reported evacuated from Al-Shifa and it was not immediately clear why only 29 arrived in Egypt.

12:50 The director general of the Ministry of Health in Gaza said that in three days, about 600 people have been killed inside the Indonesian Hospital.

There are 700 injured and more than 2,000 displaced people inside the hospital.

Palestinian health officials say "Israel is repeating the Al-Shifa Hospital scenario in the Indonesian Hospital."

12:33 The Israeli occupation army announces the death of two more soldiers, raising the total number of casualties to 67.

12:13 The Palestine Red Crescent said the ambulance teams departed from the Emirati field hospital in Rafah to transport 28 premature Palestinian infants to the Rafah Crossing, in preparation for their transfer to receive medical treatment in Egyptian hospitals.

Egyptian Minister of Health and Population, Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, said that the newborns will be treated at Al-Arish General Hospital and other hospitals in Cairo.

A UN team, led by the WHO managed to evacuate 31 premature babies from Al-Shifa hospital on Sunday. But health officials say they are in “extremely critical condition”. They had dehydration, hypothermia, and sepsis in some cases, Mohamed Zaqout, the director of Gaza hospitals said.

11:00 Lebanese Hezbollah group announces that it targeted an Israeli military base using the “Burkan“rocket, in Western Galilee along the borders between the two countries.

The Israeli army responded with artillery fire to the sources of the launch.

The frontier between Lebanon and Israel has seen daily exchanges of fire since 7 October.

At least 90 people have been killed on the Lebanese side in cross-border skirmishes since last month, including at least 10 civilians, according to an AFP tally.

Six soldiers and three civilians have been killed on the Israeli side, according to authorities there.

10:50 Iran dismissed as "invalid" Israel's claims that Yemen's Houthi rebels were acting on Tehran's "guidance" when they seized a Red Sea ship owned by an Israeli businessman.

"We have repeatedly announced that the resistance groups in the region represent their countries and make decisions and act based on the interests of their countries," Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said.

On Sunday, the Houthi group in Yemen seized the Galaxy Leadership, days after they threatened to target Israeli vessels in the waterway over Israel's war on Gaza.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed the ship "was hijacked with Iran's guidance."

10:40 At least 70 people have died at a hospital in the southern Gaza Strip following a nearby Israeli airstrike, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said.

Dozens of patients, including children and adolescents, had to be treated for "severe burns" at the Nasser medical complex, the organization said late Sunday, citing its staff at the hospital.

The strike in the city of Khan Younis took place 1 kilometer away from the hospital, the group said.

A total of 122 patients arrived at the hospital in the immediate aftermath. "The hospital is overflowing," Doctors Without Borders said.

By midday Sunday, the hospital had reported that nearly 50 people had died. A photographer told DPA there were rows of body bags.

10:38 The UNRWA says that the Palestinians in Gaza have "nowhere to go for safety" and they are all exposed to the threat of fighting and particularly Israeli strikes.

The UN agency added that "the situation in shelters is unliveable. People have no options," as heavy rain is falling across the strip.

9:17 A Palestinian was shot and killed by Israeli occupation soldiers near Arroub refugee camp, northwest of Hebron in the West Bank.

According to reports from local sources and Palestinian security, the soldiers opened fire on a vehicle carrying two individuals, killing Mohammad Adel Sarahin, a 21-year-old from Beit Ola, northwest of Hebron.

The soldiers prevented ambulances from approaching Sarahin, leaving him injured and bleeding until he passed away. They then handed over his body to the Red Crescent.

Amid the world's focus on Gaza, the Israeli war has spilled into the West Bank with an unprecedented surge of attacks by the Israeli army and settlers, according to the United Nations.

During the six weeks of the war, Israeli security forces and settlers killed 206 Palestinians.

Even before the Gaza war, 2023 had already been the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank in over two decades, with 250 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire.

The Israeli occupation forces also detained today around 50 Palestinians in raids at their homes, most of them from the city of Hebron, including Gazan workers who were in the West Bank, WAFA news agency reported.

9:15 "Some parties do not call the blatant Israeli violations and war crimes by their true description," Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said from Beijing.

"It is unfortunate to see some major countries giving a cover to the current Israeli attacks," he added during his meeting with his Chinese counterpart.

Shoukry is part of the ministerial committee formed out of the Arab-Islamic Summit that met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing early in the morning.

He said: “We look forward to a bigger role by important international parties like China to halt the attacks against Palestinians in Gaza."

"Egypt is exerting every effort to deliver aid to Gaza through the Rafah Crossing, but Israel’s policy of obstructing aid entry is systematic," Shoukry explained, saying that Israel "aims at pushing Palestinians to leave Gaza under the continued bombing and siege."

9:05 The health ministry in Gaza said Monday that 12 people were killed in an Israeli strike on a hospital in northern Gaza.

Twelve people, including wounded patients and companions, "were killed and dozens wounded as a result of the Israeli occupation targeting the Indonesian Hospital," said ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra.

The Palestinian news agency Wafa said the facility in the northeast Gaza town of Beit Lahiya had been hit by artillery fire. 

Israel is persistently targeting hospitals across Gaza, following its invasion and forced the evacuation of patients, staff, and individuals seeking shelter from the conflict, a humanitarian assessment team led by the World Health Organization (WHO) visited Al-Shifa Hospital and described the situation there as a "death zone."

The territory’s largest health facility is being evacuated at gunpoint after being under siege for several days with 7,000 people inside.

The United Nations humanitarian agency OCHA has reported the “collapse of services” at hospitals across northern Gaza following widespread air strikes and the lack of fuel and medical supplies.

Marwan Abdallah, a medical worker at the Indonesian Hospital, said Israeli tanks were visible from the windows.

“You can see them moving around and firing,” he said. “Women and children are terrified. There are constant sounds of explosions and gunfire.”

"We are under gunfire at the Indonesian Hospital and trapped inside. Israeli tanks are positioned near the main hospital gate and around the Kidney Dialysis Center," reported Journalist Anas Al-Sharif of Al Jazeera from inside the Indonesian Hospital.

"The situation is extremely dire, and medical teams are no longer able to provide any services to patients and the wounded," he said.

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