Israeli tanks approach Southern Gaza’s main hospital in ongoing conflict

Reports from individuals inside Nasser Hospital, which is now compelled to house both displaced Gazans and regular patients, described hearing shellfire as tanks advanced into the western part of Khan Younis.

Israeli tanks made a renewed push into the main city of southern Gaza on Friday, targeting Khan Younis, which has become a refuge for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced by Israeli bombardments. The incursion brought the tanks dangerously close to the largest operational hospital in the enclave, Nasser Hospital.

Reports from individuals inside Nasser Hospital, which is now compelled to house both displaced Gazans and regular patients, described hearing shellfire as tanks advanced into the western part of Khan Younis. Additionally, residents reported intense gun battles to the south of the city.

The Gaza health ministry reported a grim toll, stating that 142 Palestinians had lost their lives, and 278 others were injured in the preceding 24 hours. Israeli officials have accused Hamas fighters of operating from Nasser Hospital, an allegation vehemently denied by the hospital staff.

The Israeli offensive, including both bombardment and ground invasion, was launched in response to Hamas’ assault on towns and villages around Gaza on October 7. This has resulted in the displacement of a significant portion of the population, with around 85% of the 2.3 million inhabitants seeking shelter in the southern region. The ongoing conflict has led to a near-total blackout on telecommunications for eight days, severely hampering people’s ability to report attacks or check on relatives.

In another tragic incident, twelve people lost their lives in Israeli strikes on a residential building near the mostly non-functioning Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Israeli forces have made limited withdrawals from northern Gaza, declaring operations there largely complete. However, reports from Tel Al-Hawa, a southern suburb of Gaza City, suggest Israeli tanks re-entering the neighbourhood, prompting evacuations from schools serving as shelters.

The conflict continues to involve multiple factions, with the Islamic Jihad militant group reporting clashes with Israeli forces in central Gaza’s Al-Bureij and Al-Maghazi refugee camps and Khan Younis. Hamas’s armed wing also claimed engagements with Israeli forces in various areas across Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserted on Thursday that Israeli forces had dismantled a significant number of Hamas’ combat regiments. Still, he acknowledged that clearing the territory of militants would require “many more months.” Netanyahu reiterated his opposition to an independent Palestinian state, a stance contrary to the position advocated by the United States and other international actors as a long-term solution to the conflict.

As the conflict persists, concerns grow over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, with civilians facing shortages of essential supplies and inadequate medical care.