Shifa hospital becoming Israel's biggest problem of war so far (2024)

Fatalities are said to be rising in Gaza's largest hospital, Al-Shifa, as a fierce Israeli assault continues at the site, amid international calls for a ceasefire and uncertainty as to what Israel's next move will be to destroy Hamas, which controls the strip.

Israel has said it is closing in on Hamas. It has accused the militant Palestinian Islamic organization of concealing a command post inside and under the compound, although this is denied by Hamas and hospital staff.

The push follows Israel's pledge to eliminate Hamas after it launched deadly attacks in southern Israel on October 7, in which more than 1,200 people were killed and over 240 people taken hostage. Hamas officials say more than 11,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and minors, have been killed since the war began, the Associated Press reported.

Shifa hospital becoming Israel's biggest problem of war so far (1)

Zev Faintuch, senior intelligence analyst at international security firm Global Guardian, told Newsweek that Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops must weigh up securing the hostages alive, with limiting civilian casualties and keeping its forces safe. It is a feat he described as an impossible task.

Faintuch said that, even as IDF troops surround Al-Shifa Hospital, "it will be hard to lean on overwhelming firepower." He added that Hamas "will be able to use its advantages at that juncture, human shields, IEDs [improvised explosive devices]."

Gaza's health ministry said that the hospital ran out of fuel on Saturday, causing the deaths of three premature babies and four other patients. It added that the lives of dozens of other babies are in danger.

The IDF said it had placed 300 liters (79 gallons) of fuel near Shifa overnight for an emergency generator powering incubators for premature babies, but that Hamas had prevented the hospital from receiving the fuel. Gaza's health ministry disputed this and said the fuel would not be enough to operate the generator for an hour. Israel said it is trying to free the hostages taken by Hamas militants and added that the hospitals in the area should be evacuated. Newsweek has as yet been unable to verify these claims.

However, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the situation at the hospital was dire and perilous, with constant gunfire and bombing worsening the situation. He joined other top United Nations officials in calling for a ceasefire, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected.

.@WHO has managed to get in touch with health professionals at the Al-Shifa hospital in #Gaza.

The situation is dire and perilous.

It's been 3 days without electricity, without water and with very poor internet which has severely impacted our ability to provide essential…

— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) November 12, 2023

However, in calling for Israel to show "maximum restraint" to protect civilians, the European Union also condemned Hamas for using "hospitals and civilians as human shields." This is a charge also made by White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who said Hamas was violating the laws of war.

Faintuch said it was unclear what Hamas has in store for the IDF, and that a key question is how Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah, which is allied with Hamas, views the importance of saving his Palestinian vanguard.

"We don't really know Israel's war aims, and it's unclear if the Knesset does either," said Faintuch, referring to Israel's legislature. "The political aim is clear—end Hamas' rule in Gaza and kill its leadership and those who had a hand in the October 7 (attacks), but its translation into military strategy isn't."

U.S. President Joe Biden spoke on Sunday with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani about developments in Gaza, and the White House said all hostages held by Hamas must be released without further delay. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said rejected calls for a ceasefire, as the conflict has raised fears of a broader conflagration.

Hezbollah, which, like Hamas, is backed by Iran, has traded missile attacks with Israel. Other Tehran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria have launched dozens of drone and rocket attacks on U.S. forces. America carried out two air strikes in Syria against Iran-aligned groups on Sunday, a U.S. defense official told Reuters.

Faintuch said there are also questions over whether Israel's campaign would extend further into the West Bank or whether Israelis would go after Hamas operatives in Turkey, Malaysia and Qatar. "Does Israel, once the threat from Gaza has been pacified, go for broke and eliminate its main strategic threat, Lebanese Hezbollah?" he said.

"For Israel, the longer it stays in Gaza City, the more the people of Gaza start to collaborate and the more Hamas' power slips," Faintuch added. At the moment, there are "too many unknowns at this time."

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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Shifa hospital becoming Israel's biggest problem of war so far (2024)


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