Israeli Troops Storm Gaza’s Largest Hospital After Doctors Warn Of ‘Catastrophic Consequences’

Update(2113ET): In the overnight and early morning hours of Wednesday (local time), Israel’s military says it is moving against al-Shifa hospital, the Strip’s largest, while saying the assault “operation” is necessary to root out a Hamas command post there. 

Al Jazeera earlier reported that Israel announced the hospital would be raided in “minutes” – but the fate of worried doctors and patients has remained unknown since. According to the latest being reported in The Wall Street Journal

Israeli forces carried out a targeted operation against Hamas “in a specified area’’ of Gaza’s largest hospital, hours after the White House backed Israeli assertions that Palestinian militants are running military operations from the enclave’s hospitals.

The Israeli military said that it launched “a precise and targeted operation’’ in the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. The White House had earlier cautioned Israel not to carry out airstrikes against the hospital. Hamas said in a statement that it holds Israel and President Biden “fully responsible” for the raid on Al-Shifa hospital.

On the ground Al Jazeera coverage is showing chaos unfolding at the hospital, which has already been site of mass death, given the IDF has had it surrounded for days and has reportedly fired at targets near the entrance. Fighting has also engulfed its environs, where tanks have the area surrounded.

The Ministry of Health in Gaza has stated: “Dozens of [Israeli] soldiers entered the emergency department building in Al-Shifa Hospital Complex.”

Doctors interviewed by Al Jazeera say they plan to remain with the patients, who have been moved into interior corridors, as gunfire can be heard on the hospital campus. There are multiple thousands, including displaced refugees seeking shelter, still inside the besieged hospital. There are growing accusations that Israel’s operation is a clear war crime.

Below is the official IDF statement in English announcing the new offensive against al-Shifa:

Palestinian Minister of Health Dr. Mai Al-Kaila had earlier been cited in regional sources as warning ahead of the new assault, “Israeli forces are committing a new crime against humanity, medical staff, and patients by besieging and bombing the Shifa Medical Complex. We hold the occupation fully responsible for the lives of the medical staff, patients, and displaced people in the Shifa Medical Complex, and we warn of the catastrophic consequences of storming the medical complex.”

Israel says it got a green light for the raid on Shifa from the US, after the White House said it backs Israel’s narrative that it’s being used for military purposes.

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Israel has been ramping up its global messaging campaign at a moment it faces increased isolation from Global South countries, and amid growing criticism from large powers like China, Russia, and major Latin American countries such as Brazil.  

But there have been signs of dissent even within the Biden administration as well, with pushback especially coming from the State Department of late, as US officials want to see the White House become more publicly critical of alleged Israeli war crimes, given also the immense death toll, at over 11,200 Gazans killed – with some half of these believed to be women and children.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now taking his message to the American public, in a Monday night appearance on Fox News’ Sean Hannity, warning that the US will be “next” if his military doesn’t decimate Hamas.

Via AP

“We have to win not only for our sake, but for the sake of the Middle East, for the sake of our Arab neighbors. You know what, for the sake of Gazans who’ve been held by this dark tyranny that has brutalized and brought them nothing but bloodshed and poverty and misery,” Netanyahu introduced.

“We have to win to protect Israel. We have to win to safeguard the Middle East. We have to win for the sake of the civilized world. That’s the battle we’re fighting, and it’s being waged right now. There is no substitute for that victory.”

And that’s when he emphasized the potential dire repercussions for the West if Israel fails in its objectives. “If we don’t win now, then Europe is next and you’re next. And we have to win,” he added.

Netanyahu’s words carried a theme of a war between ‘barbarians’ and ‘civilization’, with an intent to make Americans believe what’s happening in the Middle East is “your fight” as well. According to Fox:

Netanyahu stressed that “our fight is your fight” and that there is “no substitute for victory.”

“We have to have the forces of civilization beat these barbarians because otherwise this barbarism will spread and will endanger the entire world,” Netanyahu said. “Every American, every civilized country will be under peril. We have to win. There is no substitute for victory. Total victory.”

Such messaging filled with a ‘good vs. evil’ motif was also heavily relied upon by the Bush administration and neocons in selling the Iraq War in 2003. Netanyahu has in past years also painted such simple contrasts when speaking about Iran and its supposed ‘nuclear threat’ as well.

Netanyahu may have been responding to rare words of restraint issued by President Biden on the same day. “I have not been reluctant in expressing my concerns about what’s going on and it’s my hope and expectation that it will be less intrusive action relative to the hospital,” Biden said Monday regarding the worsening humanitarian crisis at al-Shifa hospital in the center of Gaza City.

Zelensky’s playbook of “you’re next”?…

“So, I remain somewhat hopeful but the hospital must be protected,” he said. This was in response to growing international condemnation, including from the UN, of Israeli troops laying siege to the large Gaza hospital, amid reports that patients – including the very young – are dying, and as the hospital has run out of fuel to keep vital generators going.

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