Israeli forces on Saturday night claimed to have killed a Hamas commander who held 1,000 Gazans “hostage” in a hospital as human shields.
The Israel Defense Forces said that Ahmed Siam, a leader in Hamas’s al-Furqan Brigade, had blocked civilians from evacuating the Al-Rantisi Hospital in Gaza City earlier this week.
Israeli troops have been urging civilians to flee to southern Gaza to avoid them getting caught in crossfire.
The IDF said that Siam and several other terrorists were killed while hiding out at a school building in Gaza, following a joint operation with Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency.
“Ahmed Siam demonstrates once again that Hamas uses the civilians of the Gaza Strip as human shields for terror purposes,” the IDF added.
The operation came as clashes intensified around the largest hospital in Gaza, Al-Shifa, which Israeli forces claim houses a subterranean Hamas command and control centre. Fighting was said to be taking place less than 500 metres away, with the hospital saying it had run out of fuel and electricity.
Officials from the Hamas-run health ministry and hospital medics claimed that Israeli snipers had their sights trained on the buildings and were shooting at anyone who came or went.
They said the power shortages had caused at least two deaths – including that of a newborn baby – and that nearly 40 more infants were at risk.
The Israeli military said on Saturday night that it would help to evacuate babies from Al-Shifa.
“The staff of the Al-Shifa hospital has requested that tomorrow, we will help the babies in the paediatric department to get to a safer hospital. We will provide the assistance needed,” military spokesman Daniel Hagari said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was “shocked and appalled by the images & reports coming from Al-Shifa hospital”.
Israel accuses Hamas fighters of “cynically” using Gazan hospitals full of civilians as citadels, and says Hamas leaders use ambulances as cover to travel in.
On Saturday, IDF commanders said that at one point three days ago, they deliberately allowed Hamas fighters to join an evacuation of al-Rantisi hospital to reduce the risk of civilian casualties.
“We opened the corridor and let the Hamas terrorists leave with the civilians because we didn’t want to risk the civilians in that whole situation,” said an IDF spokesman. “It worked for them, we’ll get to them later.”
Meanwhile, Israel’s Foreign Ministry revised the death toll from last month’s Hamas attacks from 1,400 to around 1,200, according to the Times of Israel.
The reasons for the revised figures were not specified, but appear to be related to reassessments of burned corpses initially identified as those of Israeli civilians.
The IDF also said that four soldiers had been wounded during missile attacks on Israel’s northern border launched by Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.
In a speech on Saturday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said that global demonstrations against Israel’s incursion into Gaza were putting pressure on its Western allies.
“We see thousands of people in Washington, New York, London and Paris protesting against Israel,” he said, noting growing international calls for a ceasefire. “The only voice that stands out is the US and its ‘follower’ the UK.”
Meanwhile, in a meeting in Saudi Arabia hosted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Middle Eastern leaders condemned the war.
Among those present were President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi, on his first trip to Saudi Arabia since the two countries mended ties in March.
Mr Raisi claimed Islamic countries should designate the Israeli army a “terrorist organisation” for its conduct in Gaza.
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