Khan Younis (Gaza Strip), November 19
Hundreds of patients, medical staff and people displaced by Israel’s war against Hamas left Gaza’s largest hospital on Saturday, with one evacuee describing a panicked and chaotic scene as Israeli forces searched and face-scanned men among those leaving and took some away.
Israel’s military has been searching Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital for a Hamas command center that it alleges was located under the facility — a claim Hamas and hospital staff deny. The evacuation, which Israel says was voluntary, left behind only Israeli troops and a small number of health workers to care for those too sick to move.
“We left at gunpoint,” Mahmoud Abu Auf said on 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.
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 UN 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 on phone.
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.
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.
Defence 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 a clear indication 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 was already crammed with displaced civilians, and it was not clear where they would go if the offensive moves closer.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that the Israeli military would have “full freedom” to operate within the territory after the war. The comments again put him in conflict with US visions for a post-war era in Gaza.
Gaza’s main power plant shut down early in the war, and Israel has cut off electricity. That makes fuel necessary to power generators needed to run water treatment plants, sanitation facilities, and hospitals for Gaza’s 2.3 million people.
In Jerusalem, thousands of marchers — including family members and supporters of about 240 hostages held in Gaza by Hamas — arrived on the last leg of a five-day trek from Tel Aviv to plead with the government to do more to bring their loved ones home.
The Israeli military said its aircraft struck what it described as a hideout for militants in the urban refugee camp of Balata in the occupied West Bank. The Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service said five Palestinians were killed. The deaths raised to 212 Palestinians killed in the West Bank since the war began.
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