‘Gaza hospitals must be protected’


Medecins Sans Frontieres reported ongoing hostilities around Al-Shifa, hindering evacuations and making ambulance journeys perilous…reports Asian Lite News

President Joe Biden has expressed worry about the safety of hospitals in Gaza amid Israel’s claim that Hamas is using them for coordinating attacks.

The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) previously suggested that hospitals could lose their protection from attack under international law if used for terror purposes. “When medical facilities are used for terror purposes, they are liable to lose their protection from attack in accordance with international law,” an IDF spokesperson said two weeks ago, appearing to suggest such hospitals are on Israel’s target list.

A US official, echoing IDF accusations, mentioned that Hamas has a command node under Al-Shifa hospital.

President Biden voiced concern about the Hamas-controlled enclave’s hospitals.

He said, “Well, you know, I have not been reluctant to express my concern with what’s going on, and it’s my hope and expectation that there will be less intrusive action relative to the hospitals; we’re in contact with the Israelis.”

Biden also added that there is an effort to take “this pause to deal with the release of prisoners, and that’s being negotiated as well, and the Qataris are engaged, so I remain somewhat hopeful, but the hospitals must be protected.”

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), also known as Doctors without Borders, reported ongoing hostilities around Al-Shifa, hindering evacuations and making ambulance journeys perilous. Despite Israel opening an evacuation corridor, no one reportedly left, with the hospital director citing fear among the people.

In an interview, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed there’s “no reason” patients can’t be evacuated from Al-Shifa. The hospital’s dire situation, lack of fuel and electricity, and refusal of mandatory evacuation orders by doctors further escalate the humanitarian crisis.

The condition is deteriorating in Gaza’s major hospitals, Al-Shifa and Al-Quds, due to the lack of fuel and electricity amid the ongoing Israeli forces’ assault. Both hospitals are non-functional, CNN reported, citing Palestinian officials.

Doctors at Al-Shifa Hospital are resisting an IDF mandatory evacuation order, stating that about 700 patients would die if left behind, according to the director-general of the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza.

Israel asserts justification for military actions around the hospitals, despite criticism from the UN and others. A US official, citing American intelligence, told CNN that Hamas has a command node under Al-Shifa, using hospital fuel, and its fighters regularly gather in and around the facility.

The accusation of a Hamas command center under Al-Shifa has been denied by Hamas and hospital officials, creating a complex backdrop to the escalating crisis in Gaza.

At least 11,180 Palestinians, including 4,609 children and 3,100 women, have been killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in the occupied West Bank. Additionally, 53 ambulances have been disabled, CNN reported the ministry as saying.

‘Working around the clock to release hostages’

Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that the Biden administration is working “around the clock” to ensure the release of the nearly 240 hostages being held in Gaza, adding that he will be meeting again with representatives of the captives’ families later today.

In a White House briefing, National Security Adviser Sullivan said that 3-year-old Abigail Edan, an American citizen and orphan of the October 7 attack, is among the hostages, as highlighted in President Joe Biden’s call with the Qatari emir.

“The United States continues to work round the clock to support efforts to rescue and reunite hostages held by Hamas with their families where they belong,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan added that nine Americans were currently unaccounted for, along with one US Green Card holder. He declined to give much information regarding the status of the hostages but said that the US “does have information… about some of the hostages.”

“There are a substantial number of hostages who are not just alive but who could potentially be part of a hostage release,” Sullivan continued, adding, “But I couldn’t give you a number of exactly how many Americans would be included in that. That’s something that we will have to work through as we continue these negotiations. We won’t know for certain until we actually get the release of those hostages.”

Sullivan reaffirmed that the US is also leading efforts to increase the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza. “While we’ve made some progress, much more is urgently needed to alleviate suffering among the civilian population in Gaza,” he said.

The US National Security Adviser also underscored Israel’s agreement last week to implement localised humanitarian pauses in the IDF’s fighting in northern Gaza and says the US will continue discussing the implementation of additional such pauses, which will allow for additional aid to flow in, the safe passage of Palestinian civilians, and assist in the release of the hostages.

“We believe pauses should not be dictated by a strict timetable,” Sullivan said, noting that the humanitarian pauses Israel agreed to may need to extend longer than four hours and adds that the IDF too has recognized this, recently extending one of the pauses to seven hours to ensure the safe passage of civilians.

“Ultimately, we’d like to see considerably longer pauses [for] days, not hours, in the context of a hostage release,” he added. (ANI)

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