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Israel-Hamas war, Day 44: Dozens killed after Israeli airstrike strikes crowded shelter in refugee camp

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) had previously warned residents of the Jabaliya camp and others to leave while it proceeded with its operations targeting Hamas. At least 26 Palestinians were killed in a separate airstrike in Khan Younis camp in southern Gaza.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Gaza Published on: November 19, 2023 9:38 IST
Another airstrike at Khan Younis refugee camp killed 26
Image Source : AP Another airstrike at Khan Younis refugee camp killed 26 Palestinians.

An Israeli airstrike struck a crowded UN shelter in the urban Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza on Saturday, killing dozens of people as the war continues to intensify. Witnesses described massive destruction in the Fakhoura school in the camp.

"The scenes were horrifying. Corpses of women and children were on the ground. Others were screaming for help," said a wounded survivor named Ahmed Radwan, as pictures from the hospital showed at least 20 bodies in bloodstained sheets.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) had previously warned residents of the Jabaliya camp and others to leave, saying that only its troops were active in the area “with the aim of hitting terrorists.” The Israeli military claims that only targets Hamas while trying to minimise civilian harm.

“Receiving horrifying images and footage of scores of people killed and injured in another UNRWA school sheltering thousands of displaced,” Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner general of the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).

Additionally, an Israeli airstrike struck a residential building on the outskirts of the town of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, killing at least 26 Palestinians, according to a doctor at the hospital where the bodies were taken.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel’s forces have begun operating in eastern Gaza City while continuing its mission in western areas. “With every passing day, there are fewer places where Hamas terrorists can operate,” he said, adding that the militants would learn that in southern Gaza “in the coming days.”

Hundreds of people leave al-Shifa hospital

Meanwhile, hundreds of patients, medical staff and displaced people left Gaza's largest hospital on Saturday in the midst of a chaotic situation as the IDF expands its 'precise and targeted' military operation in al-Shifa.

“We left at gunpoint. Tanks and snipers were everywhere inside and outside," said an evacuee named Mahmoud Abu Auf to the Associated Press, adding that some men were detained by Israeli forces.

Health officials said they received an evacuation order from the military on Saturday morning, while the military said it had offered safe passage to those hoping to leave. Before the departure, several thousand people, including medical patients in serious condition, were trapped in Shifa in dire conditions.

More than two days after Israeli soldiers stormed Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza, doctors said they were amputating limbs to avoid infection and spoke of wounds festering with maggots, while Israel’s military said it was still searching for evidence to back up its allegations that Hamas used the hospital as a command centre.

Hospital director Mohammed Abu Selmia told Al Jazeera television that 52 patients have died since fuel ran out — up from 40 reported dead before Israeli troops entered the compound on Wednesday. More patients were on the verge of death as their wounds were “open with maggots coming out of them,” another doctor, Faisal Siyam, told the Qatar-run TV network.

Israel claimed that Hamas had a major operations command centre in and beneath the facility and used the patients to provide cover for terrorists. These claims were denied by Hamas and the hospital staff.

'No hostage deal' with Hamas: Netanyahu

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday said that there has been 'no deal' with the Palestine-based militant group over the release of roughly 240 hostages it captured during its devastating massacre on October 7. He also highlighted "a lot of incorrect reports" about such deals, reported The Times of Israel.

The Israeli PM also said that there was heavy international pressure against the current offensive against Hamas. "Together with my colleagues, I rebuff the pressure and make clear to the world: We will continue to fight until victory. Until we destroy Hamas. And until we bring our hostages home," Netanyahu said.

He further said that he greatly “appreciates the support of the US” and says it is sending constant shipments of crucial weaponry and defense equipment, and notes the bipartisan support in the House and Senate.

According to the Washington Post, the US, Israel and Hamas are "close" to an agreement with Qatari mediators for the release of dozens of hostages in exchange for a five-day pause in fighting. The agreement reportedly talks about the temporary truce while an "initial 50 or more" hostages are released in batches.

"We have not reached a deal yet, but we continue to work hard to get to a deal,” a US National Security Council spokesperson told The Times of Israel.

Biden calls on international community to manage security of Gaza

US President Joe Biden, in an op-ed, called on the international community to help manage the security of post-war Gaza for an interim period. While he envisioned the Palestinian Authority to re-govern the Strip, the White House has acknowledged that the Mahmoud Abbas-led PA is currently not in a state to do so.

Netanyahu has said that Israel will maintain overall security responsibility for Gaza for an unspecified period of time and will not hand it over to “international forces" and rejected handing it over to the PA.

(with agency inputs)

ALSO READ | Israel rejects media reports which claim IDF asked Al-Shifa Hospital to evacuate within an hour

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