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Renewed Israeli offensive sees Gaza City health care crumble

By Leo Sands,Hazem Balousha, Sarah Dadouch and Kareem Fahim Washington Post

Hospitals in the northern Gaza Strip are struggling to treat patients and offer desperately needed medical services amid Israeli operations in Gaza City, according to local officials and hospital administrators.

The resumed military offensive, which forced tens of thousands to flee, has sown chaos among sick and injured Palestinians, as the city’s remaining medical facilities have been caught up in Israeli-ordered evacuation zones while others struggle to get fuel and medical supplies.

Military action was not limited to the north. At least 17 people were killed after an Israeli airstrike early in the day on a home in Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, according to Nassar Ghareez, a spokesman for the Palestinian civil defense. Eleven were children, according to a list of the victims provided by the civil defense.

In video shot by Reuters that appeared to show the aftermath of the strike, Yasser Abu Hamada, a resident, said the family in the house struck Tuesday was sheltering there after a school where they had been staying, also in Nuseirat, was hit by an Israeli airstrike Sunday. “They are not safe in the schools, nor the houses,” he said.

The Israel Defense Forces declined to say whether it had carried out the strike but said it “follows international law and takes feasible precautions to mitigate civilian harm.”

In northern Gaza, civil defense spokesman Mahmoud Bassal said fighting has made it too dangerous for patients or ambulances to reach Gaza City’s al-Ahli Hospital. As of Tuesday , Israeli troops remained in southern areas of Gaza City, he said, including around the headquarters of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which aids Palestinian refugees.

According to the World Health Organization, both the al-Ahli and Patient’s Friends Benevolent Society hospitals had effectively ceased to function as of Monday evening.

The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, which helps operate al-Ahli, said in a statement that drones were fired around it Sunday evening and that those inside were forced to flee. Photographs of al-Ahli taken Monday showed wards emptied of patients and hospital workers, with medical equipment strewn across the floor.

In a post on X, WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said patients at the hospitals have been discharged or self-evacuated, with some referred to the nearby Kamal Adwan and Indonesian hospitals – both of which he said were suffering from shortages of fuel, beds and trauma medical supplies. “Indonesian Hospital is triple over its capacity,” he said.

On Tuesday, the Palestine Red Crescent Society said that all its medical stations and emergency clinics in Gaza City were “out of service due to the Israeli occupation’s forcible evacuation measures.”

The IDF denied that it included hospitals and medical facilities in its evacuation orders. “There is no need to evacuate the hospitals and medical facilities in the area,” it said in a statement Tuesday morning, although it said that civilians in specific areas were ordered to evacuate to protect them from active combat. Monday’s evacuation order covered 70 percent of the city.

In a separate statement Tuesday morning, the IDF said it has killed dozens of militants and was operating “above and below the ground” in Gaza City’s Shejaiya neighborhood.

Since the war began Oct. 7, Israel has made hospitals a key target of its military campaign, alleging that Hamas uses them for militant activity. Wartime conditions have eviscerated Gaza’s medical infrastructure, with hospitals suffering from shortages of medical supplies and fuel needed for generators. Health officials have repeatedly warned that the system is on the brink of collapse.

Numerous medical workers have been detained by Israeli forces, including some who have died in custody.

Gaza’s largest hospital, al-Shifa complex in Gaza City, has been mostly reduced to gutted ruins, after a weeks-long offensive by Israeli troops against Hamas militants who Israel said had barricaded themselves inside.

The Israeli military concluded its operations in Gaza City months ago but has had to repeatedly reenter parts of the Gaza Strip to deal with what it has described as resurgent Hamas forces.

Meanwhile, U.S. negotiators returned to the Middle East to continue cease-fire talks this week, as hopes for an imminent breakthrough faded after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu injected further uncertainty by insisting that Israel should be able to resume fighting as part of any deal accepted by negotiators.

The delegation includes CIA Director William J. Burns, a key U.S. participant in past cease-fire negotiations, and Brett McGurk, President Biden’s coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, who White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said met with their Egyptian, Israeli and Jordanian counterparts in the Egyptian capital.

Burns met with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi on Tuesday, discussing “joint efforts to reach an agreement on a cease-fire,” according to a readout from the Egyptian president’s office. State-affiliated Egyptian media reported that a delegation would travel to Doha, Qatar, on Wednesday for more talks, amid “intensified activity” to bring the two sides closer together.

In its report, the state television outlet cited officials saying there was “agreement on many points.”

At a news briefing Monday, Kirby said “there are still some gaps that remain” in the two sides’ positions. “But we wouldn’t have sent a team over there if we didn’t think we had a shot there.”

Here’s what else to know

Australia appointed a special envoy for combating antisemitism. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said that Jillian Segal, announced Tuesday as the officeholder, will help ease tensions brewing in Australia “as a result of the devastating conflict in the Middle East.” A special envoy for Islamophobia will also be announced, the statement said.

A Hezbollah member was killed in the Damascus countryside on the Damascus-Beirut highway, Hezbollah confirmed in a statement after local reports of a drone attack striking a car in the area. The IDF declined to comment. A member of Hezbollah’s media office, who spoke on the condition anonymity in accordance with the group’s media rules, confirmed that Hezbollah member Yasser Qaranbash was killed near the border but gave no further details. Hezbollah said it targeted IDF headquarters of the 210th Golan Division with dozens of rockets in response to the attack in Syria.

Syrian state media accused Israeli forces of bombarding targets in the coastal city of Baniyas. The state news agency reported that an overnight attack resulted in “some material losses,” without offering further details. The IDF declined to comment.

At least 38,243 people have been killed and 88,033 injured in Gaza since the war started, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says the majority of the dead are women and children. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, including more than 300 soldiers, and it says 324 soldiers have been killed since the start of its military operations in Gaza.