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Hundreds leave Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza as Israeli forces take control of facility

Hundreds of Palestinians flee Al-Shifa hospital
Hundreds of Palestinians flee Al-Shifa hospital 03:19

Hundreds of patients, staff and displaced people left Gaza's largest hospital Saturday, health officials said, leaving behind only a skeleton crew to care for those too sick to move and Israeli forces in control of the facility.

One evacuee described a panicked and chaotic scene as Israeli forces searched and face-scanned men among those leaving and took some away.  

The World Health Organization said that Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital is a "death zone," and urged a full evacuation, reported Agence France-Presse. 

Israel's military raided the sprawling Al-Shifa Hospital complex on Wednesday and have remained there to search it floor by floor, and room by room, for Hamas fighters and any evidence of what they say is an underground Hamas command center. U.S. officials said they also have evidence of a Hamas command center — something the military group and hospital staff deny.

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-HOSPITAL
Patients and medics are pictured at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Nov. 10, 2023. AFP via Getty Images

Israel's allegations that Hamas has embedded itself in civilian areas and at hospitals has been central to its justifications for the massive military campaign it launched after Hamas' devastating Oct. 7 attack on Israel. 

On Saturday, the military said it had been asked by the hospital's director to help those who would like to leave do so by a secure route. The military said it did not order any evacuation, and that medical personnel were being allowed to remain in the hospital to support patients who cannot be moved.

But Medhat Abbas, a spokesman for the Health Ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza, said the military had ordered the facility cleared, giving the hospital an hour to get people out.

"I was inside Al-Shifa hospital, and we were forced to evacuate by the Israelis," Dr. Ramez Radwan told Reuters. "May God save us." 

"We left at gunpoint," Mahmoud Abu Auf told the Associated Press by phone after he and his family left the crowded hospital. "Tanks and snipers were everywhere inside and outside." He said he saw Israeli troops detain three men.  

After it appeared the evacuation was mostly complete, Dr. Ahmed Mokhallalati, a Shifa physician, said on social media that there were some 120 patients remaining who were unable to leave, including some in intensive care and premature babies, and that he and five other doctors were staying behind to care for them.

It was not immediately clear where those who left the hospital had gone, with 25 of Gaza's hospitals non-functional due to lack of fuel, damage and other problems and the other 11 only partially operational, according to the World Health Operation.

The exodus from Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City came the same day internet and phone service was restored to the Gaza Strip, ending a telecommunications blackout that forced the United Nations to shut down critical humanitarian aid deliveries because it was unable to coordinate its convoys.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during his weekly media address on Saturday evening that Israel is sending two fuel trucks a day to Gaza to prevent the outbreak of disease.  

Biden calls again for two-state solution

President Biden, in an op-ed Saturday in the Washington Post, called for a two-state solution, writing that "the international community must commit resources to support the people of Gaza in the immediate aftermath of this crisis, including interim security measures, and establish a reconstruction mechanism to sustainably meet Gaza's long-term needs. And it is imperative that no terrorist threats ever again emanate from Gaza or the West Bank."

At least 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed, and an estimated 240 abducted, when Hamas militants invaded southern Israel on Oct. 7.

At least 12,300 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli's counteroffensive, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, which does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count.  

Earlier this week, CBS News learned that Israel was considering a proposal that would see Hamas release a portion of the hostages the Palestinian militant group is holding in Gaza in exchange for a three-to-five-day cease-fire in the war. As part of the proposal, an unspecified number of Palestinian women and children currently held in Israeli prisons could also be released, an official with knowledge of the negotiations told CBS News.

On Saturday, National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson told CBS News that there was "no deal yet but we continue to work hard to get a deal."

In a news conference Saturday night, Netanyahu indicated he was receiving "heavy pressure" from the U.S. and other world leaders to agree to a cease-fire.

"They pressured us to agree to a full cease-fire — we refused and I have made it clear: We will only agree to a temporary cease-fire and only in exchange for the return of our hostages," Netanyahu said. "Together, with my colleagues, I reject these pressures and say to the world: We will continue to fight until victory — until we destroy Hamas and bring our hostages back home."

Thousands of Israelis joined a march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem Saturday to support the families of hostages. Many were furious at Netanyahu, blaming him for the security failures that led to their abductions.

"It's impossible that there are 240 kidnapped people, and the government, our government, isn't talking to them, isn't telling them what's going on, what's on the table, what are the offers, what are the reasons for or against. Nothing. Nobody is talking to them," protester Stevie Karem told CBS News. 

CBS News taken inside Al-Shifa hospital with Israeli military 03:34

Dozens killed in airstrikes on northern and southern Gaza

Elsewhere in northern Gaza, dozens of people were killed in the urban Jabaliya refugee camp when what witnesses described as an Israeli airstrike hit a crowded U.N. shelter in the main combat zone. It caused massive destruction in the camp's Fakhoura school, said wounded survivors Ahmed Radwan and Yassin Sharif.

"The scenes were horrifying. Corpses of women and children were on the ground. Others were screaming for help," Radwan said by phone. AP photos from a local hospital showed more than 20 bodies wrapped in bloodstained sheets.

The Israeli military, which had warned Jabaliya residents and others in a social media post in Arabic to leave, said only that its troops were active in the area "with the aim of hitting terrorists." It rarely comments on individual strikes, saying only that it targets Hamas while trying to minimize civilian harm.

"Receiving horrifying images & footage of scores of people killed and injured in another UNRWA school sheltering thousands of displaced," Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner general of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, or UNRWA, said on X, formerly Twitter.

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

"We don't know how to be sad anymore," Iyad Zaim of Khan Younis, who lost eight members of his family, told Reuters. "The tears barely come now."

Israel appears to have expanded military operations into southern Gaza

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."

His comments were the clearest indication yet that the military plans to expand its offensive to southern Gaza, where Israel had told Palestinian civilians to flee early in the war. The evacuation zone is already crammed with displaced civilians, and it was not clear where they would go if the offensive moves closer.  

Israel rarely comments on individual strikes, saying only that it is targeting Hamas and trying to avoid harm to civilians. In many of the Israeli strikes, women and children have been among the dead.

Netanyahu said Thursday that Israel would make every effort to complete its operation in Gaza "with minimal civilian casualties."

"That's what we're trying to do, minimum civilian casualties. But, unfortunately, we're not successful," Netanyahu told CBS Evening News' Norah O'Donnell, blaming his military's unsuccessful efforts squarely on Hamas, which he called a "theological, mad cult," which he accused of deliberately trapping Palestinian civilians behind its fighters to use as human shields.

Most of Gaza's population is now sheltering in the south, including hundreds of thousands of people who heeded Israel's calls to evacuate Gaza City and the north to get out of the way of its ground offensive. 

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