Gaza’s largest hospital has become a “death zone,” the World Health Organisation said Sunday, announcing plans to evacuate the last remaining patients as Israel’s army said it was expanding operations to destroy Hamas.
The assessment came after a visit by WHO and other UN officials to the hospital, which Israeli troops raided earlier this week in pursuit of Hamas militants.
Elsewhere, a Hamas health official said more than 80 people were killed Saturday in twin strikes on a northern Gaza refugee camp, including on a UN school sheltering displaced people.
Social media videos verified by AFP showed bodies covered in blood and dust on the floor of a building where mattresses had been wedged under school tables, in Jabalia, the Palestinian territory’s biggest refugee camp.
Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees UNRWA, described “horrifying images” from the incident, while Egypt called the bombing a “war crime” and “a deliberate insult to the United Nations”.
A separate strike Saturday on another building in Jabalia camp killed 32 people from the same family, 19 of them children, Hamas health authorities said.
Without mentioning the strikes, the Israeli army said “an incident in the Jabalia region” was under review.
Israel has vowed to destroy the Palestinian armed group Hamas in response to the October 7 attacks, which Israeli officials say killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and saw about 240 people taken hostage.
The army’s relentless air and ground campaign has since killed 12,300 people, more than 5,000 of them children, according to the Hamas government, which has ruled Gaza since 2007.
The UN says some 1.6 million people have been displaced inside the Gaza Strip by six weeks of fighting, and Israel said Saturday its military was “expanding its operational activities in additional neighbourhoods… of the Gaza Strip”.
– ‘Extreme suffering’ –
Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa, has been a key focus in recent days, with Israeli forces alleging Hamas uses it as a command centre — a claim denied by the group and medical staff.
On Sunday, the WHO described the hospital as a “death zone”, with a mass grave at the entrance and nearly 300 patients left inside with 25 health workers.
It said it was planning “the immediate evacuation of the remaining patients, staff and their families”, warning, however, that nearby facilities were already overstretched and urging an immediate ceasefire given the “extreme suffering of the people of Gaza”.
On Saturday, hundreds of people fled the hospital on foot on orders from the Israeli army, according to the facility’s director.
Columns of sick and injured — some of them amputees — were seen leaving with displaced people, doctors and nurses, as loud explosions were heard around the complex.
At least 15 bodies, some in advanced stages of decomposition, were strewn along the route, lined with heavily damaged shops and overturned vehicles, an AFP journalist there said.
Non-government group Doctors Without Borders said a convoy carrying its staff and family members came under attack Saturday while evacuating from near Al-Shifa, despite coordinating with both sides. One person was killed.
The WHO said 29 patients at the hospital with serious spinal injuries cannot move without medical assistance, and others have infected wounds due to lack of antibiotics.
There are also 32 babies in “extremely critical condition,” WHO said.
– ‘Not normal’ –
Israel’s siege on Gaza has left food, water, medicine and fuel in short supply, with just a trickle of aid allowed in from Egypt.
Under US pressure, Israel permitted a first consignment of fuel to enter late Friday, allowing telecommunications to resume after a two-day blackout.
The UN said Israel had agreed to allow in 60,000 litres (16,000 gallons) of fuel a day from Saturday, but warned it only around a third of what is needed.
Israel has told Palestinians to move south for their safety, but deadly strikes continued there too.
At least 26 people were killed in a residential building on Saturday, according to the director of the Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis.
In a scene now tragically familiar in Gaza, mourning relatives wept at the hospital where the bodies of those killed were laid out on the ground in white, blood-stained shrouds, several children among them.
Diplomacy to secure the release of hostages held by Palestinian militants is continuing, with a US official saying more fuel deliveries and a “significant pause” in fighting would come “when hostages are released”.
The White House denied, however, a Washington Post report of a tentative agreement, with National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson saying “we continue to work hard to get to a deal”.
Relatives of those taken, who range from infants to octogenarians, piled pressure on Israel’s government Saturday after arriving outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Jerusalem office on a march from Tel Aviv.
“It’s not normal to have children kidnapped for 43 days. We don’t know what the government is doing, we don’t have any information,” said marcher Ari Levi.
The bodies of two female hostages were recovered in Gaza this week, the Israeli military said, while four abductees have so far been released by Hamas and a fifth rescued by troops.
Gaza’s fate after the conflict remains unclear, and Biden argued in an opinion piece published Saturday that the coastal territory and the Israeli-occupied West Bank should come under a single “revitalised” administration.
“As we strive for peace, Gaza and the West Bank should be reunited under a single governance structure, ultimately under a revitalised Palestinian Authority,” he wrote in the Washington Post.
Netanyahu has insisted the Palestinian Authority “in its current form is not capable of receiving responsibility for Gaza”.
Biden also threatened sanctions, including visa bans, against Israeli settlers who have ramped up attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank in recent weeks.
Army Plans Review Of Operational Engagement
The Nigerian Army will be evaluating and comprehensively reviewing ongoing operational engagements in all the theatres of operations across the six geo-political zones.
This will enable the service to make decisions that will help in effectively tackling the security challenges bedeviling the country.
A statement on Friday by the Director, Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Nwachukwu Onyema noted that the service would be embarking on the review among others at the Chief of Army Staff’s conference slated to hold in Maiduguri between December 10 and 16.
The statement partly read, “Nigerian Army will take stock, evaluate and comprehensively review ongoing operational engagements of the NA in all theatres of operations across the six geo-political zones within the year, among other key agenda.
“This will provide the NA an in-depth insight to make far-reaching decisions that will be result-oriented towards achieving its set objective of addressing multifaceted security challenges in the country.”
Onyema said the week-long conference is an important annual event in the calendar of the Nigerian Army due to its significance to National security, peace, and stability.
He added that the event would also allow the Chief of Amry Staff, Lt. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja to have an interaction with the field commanders.
The statement stated, “The Conference would also create an opportunity for the COAS to have face-to-face interaction with the General Officers Commanding, Field Commanders, and other senior officers to provide requisite guidance on enhancing NA operations and activities. The conference will be declared open on Monday 11 December 2023.
“The President, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, His Excellency, Bola Tinubu is expected to grace the occasion as the Special Guest of Honour.
“The Opening Ceremony will feature an address to troops of Joint Task Force North East Operation Hadin Kai inspection of the ongoing Nigerian Army Reference Hospital Maiduguri and laying of the foundation stone of Headquarters 7 Division by the Special Guest of Honour. “
Putin To Run Again For President In 2024
Russian leader Vladimir Putin has decided to run in presidential elections next March, news agencies reported Friday, allowing the Kremlin leader to extend his decades-long grip on power.
Putin told Lieutenant Colonel Artyom Zhoga, a Russian military officer, about his decision to participate in the upcoming vote following an awards ceremony for army personnel at the Kremlin, state-run news agencies reported.
”The president has said that he will run for president of the Russian Federation,” Zhoga was cited as saying by state-run news agency RIA Novosti.
”We all—I say this with confidence—in the reunited territories, all of Russia, support him. We are very happy that he heard our request” to participate, Zhoga added, referring to the Ukrainian territories Moscow claims as its own.
Putin, however, has yet to make a formal announcement that he will compete in the vote scheduled to take place between March 15 and 17 next year.
“Our president has never avoided and does not avoid responsible decisions,” said Valentina Matvienko, the head of Russia’s upper house of parliament.
“And today he has once again confirmed this. He confirmed that at the moment of a historic choice and a historic challenge,” she added.
Putin will not face any major challengers and will likely seek as big a mandate as possible to conceal domestic discord over the Ukraine conflict, analysts say.
Rockets Fired At US Embassy In Baghdad Amid Gaza War
Salvoes of rockets were launched Friday at the US embassy in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, the mission said, the latest in a flurry of such attacks amid the Israel-Hamas war.
“A multi-rocket attack was launched at US and Coalition forces in the vicinity of Union III and the Baghdad embassy complex” without causing any reported casualties or damage, a US official said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
The United States leads an international coalition battling jihadists in Iraq and neighbouring Syria, and its forces have come under repeated attacks in recent weeks.
The attacks come against the backdrop of the more than two-month war between US ally Israel and the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
In a statement, the US embassy said “two salvoes of rockets” were fired at the mission compound at around 4.15am (0115 GMT).
“Indications are the attacks were initiated by Iran-aligned militias,” said a US spokesperson.
“We again call on the government of Iraq… to do all in its power to protect diplomatic and coalition partner personnel and facilities.
“We reiterate that we reserve the right to self-defence and to protect our personnel anywhere in the world,” the spokesperson added.
Since mid-October, there have been dozens of rocket or drone strikes by pro-Iran groups against US or coalition forces in Iraq as well as in Syria.
But Friday’s rocket attack was the first against the US embassy in Baghdad since the Israel-Hamas war began on October 7, raising regional tensions and fears of a wider conflict.
An Iraqi security official said “Three Katyusha rockets targeting the American embassy fell close to the Green Zone,” near the river Tigris. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media.
There are roughly 2,500 US troops in Iraq and about 900 in Syria as part of efforts to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group.
– Around 80 attacks –
After the end of a seven-day pause in the war between Israel and Iran-backed Hamas last week, pro-Iran groups resumed their attacks against US and coalition forces, justifying their actions by pointing to American support for Israel.
In Iraq, most were claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose formation of armed groups affiliated with the Hashed al-Shaabi coalition of former paramilitaries who are now integrated into Iraq’s regular armed forces.
US forces have struck Iran-linked targets in both Iraq and Syria in response.
On Sunday a US military official speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed a “self-defence strike” was carried out in northern Iraq against a drone launch site “in the vicinity of Kirkuk” against “an imminent threat”.
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq later announced the death of “five martyrs”.
That strike came a day after Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said during a phone call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Baghdad rejected “any attack on Iraqi territory”, according to a statement from Sudani’s office.
Sudani also said the Iraqi government was committed “to ensuring the safety of the international coalition advisers present in Iraq”.
On Wednesday, a US military official said a drone had targeted Western troops at the Ain al-Asad Airbase in western Iraq, but there were no casualties or damage.
In total, Washington has counted at least 78 attacks since October 17 against its forces in Iraq and Syria, 10 days after the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.
The Israel-Hamas war began with the Palestinian militant group’s unprecedented attack on Israeli soil, which killed around 1,200 people and saw about 240 people captured as hostages, according to Israeli officials.
In response, Israel vowed to destroy Hamas and launched a large-scale military offensive that has killed 17,177 people in Gaza, according to the territory’s Hamas government.
The attacks against US personnel included rocket fire and drone strikes, and have left at least 60 US personnel wounded, the Pentagon says.
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