IDF pushes deeper into Gaza city; civilians flee amid airstrikes
Jerusalem: Israeli ground forces pushed deeper into Gaza city, the largest in the enclave, with continuous airstrikes pounding northern Gaza on Friday as hundreds of civilians, mainly Palestinians, fled to the south under the evacuation corridors.
Of 22 lakh civilians in the enclave, over 7 lakh have already fled to the south besides foreign passport holders and injured civilians who have crossed the Rafah border into Egypt.
Loud explosions were reported from near several hospitals, including Al Shifa Hospital, the largest medical centre in Gaza, where thousands of civilians have taken refuge from heavy bombardment and escalating military conflict, media reports said.
Gaza medical officials said Israel and Hamas blamed each other for the blasts with the latter holding Israel responsible for its air strikes as causing harm and IDF blaming at least one of the explosions on a misfired Palestinian rocket, the US media reports said.
At least one explosion wrecked the Shifa courtyard and the obstetrics department last night, killing at least one and wounding others, USA Today quoted agency reports from Gaza.
The head of the Hamas-run media office in Gaza, Salama Maarouf told a Qatar-based TV network to say strikes hit near three hospitals in total.
No details on the number of casualties were provided by him.
IDF claims Hamas’ main command centre is located inside and under the Shifa Hospital complex.
Israeli officials have suspected Hamas of siphoning fuels from the hospitals supplies, storing weapons and militants inside the hospital premises, as also schools and mosques. Hamas flatly denied these charges saying Israel was justifying its air strikes hitting civilian targets under this pretext.
On Friday, Israel announced a six-hour window for cessation of military activities so that civilians in northern Gaza could flee.
Humanitarian pauses in the fighting are on for days as the IDF has urged civilians to leave while it takes down Gaza entirely, the head quarters of Hamas operations, reports said.
US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby announced in Washington on Thursday the Israelis had committed to daily four-hour pauses in fighting across northern Gaza.