Israel-Hamas war: Medical facilities at risk of collapse in Khan Younis as fighting rages

Talks aimed at releasing more Israeli hostages in exchange for pause in fighting were due to take place in Paris on Sunday

Medical facilities are at risk of collapse in Khan Younis, the southern Gaza city now at the focus of Israel’s offensive, the Gaza health ministry warned on Sunday, as fighting raged across the Palestinian enclave.

Residents said Israeli planes and tanks also pounded areas in Gaza City to the north, where Israel has been pulling out troops. The fighting could be heard in the nearby towns of Beit Lahiya and Jabilia, near to Gaza City.

Israel’s military said it was engaged in “intensive battles” in Khan Younis, where it said troops “eliminated terrorists and located large quantities of weapons”.

The armed wing of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad said fighters clashed with Israeli troops in several areas across the enclave overnight. Hamas’ armed wing said its fighters destroyed two Israeli tanks in Khan Younis.


The latest fighting came as United Nations officials and aid groups urged countries to reconsider their decision to pause funding for the UN refugee agency for Palestinians, a vital source of aid in Gaza. At least nine countries have paused funding following allegations by Israel that a dozen of UNRWA’s staff were involved in the October 7th Hamas attacks on Israel.

Gaza health ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qidra said 165 Palestinians were killed and 290 wounded in the past 24 hours, bringing the total killed in Israeli strikes since the war began to 26,422. Officials in the Hamas-ruled territory do not distinguish between militants and civilians in their count.

Israel says it has lost 220 soldiers in the ground offensive and has killed 9,000 Gaza fighters, a figure that Hamas has dismissed.

One strike on a house in a suburb of Gaza City killed eight people, health officials said.

Israel launched a war it says aims to eliminate Hamas after the militants’ unprecedented cross-border assault, in which 1,200 people were killed and 253 abducted, according to Israeli officials.

The Israeli military declared a closed military zone at the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza after right-wing demonstrators and some families of hostages tried to stop aid from going into the enclave, saying it was merely helping Hamas.

Protests in Israel demanding that the government do more to secure the hostages’ release have been spreading, as little progress has been seen in ceasefire talks mediated by Egypt and Qatar since November amid disputes between Israel and Hamas.

Palestinian medics and residents said Israel continued to bomb areas around the two main hospitals in Khan Younis, hindering efforts by rescue teams to respond to desperate calls from people caught in the Israeli bombardment.

“There is a complete failure of the healthcare system at Nasser and Al-Amal hospitals,” said Mr Qidra.

Israel says it is taking steps to keep hospitals running and minimise civilian casualties. It accuses Hamas of operating in densely populated areas, including around hospitals, and using civilians as human shields and has released photos and videos supporting this allegation, which the Islamist group denies.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said in a statement that medical teams at Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis would be unable to perform surgeries because oxygen supplies were depleted.

More families were displaced from Khan Younis on Sunday. Some people took dirt roads to get closer to the city of Rafah along the border with Egypt or Deir Al-Balah to the north. Others headed west to an area called Al-Mawasi where residents described being crammed into a small area.

“It is as crowded as it can get,” said electrician Abu Raouf, a father of four. “People have lost their ability to think, their ability to feel, they are moving like robots, it is just a matter of time before Israel sends tanks into here as well, there is no place safe.”

Reem Abu Tair left Khan Younis in the cold with three children, one of them an infant.

“We managed to save our lives, we escaped bombings and the destruction that is surrounding us only to end up in the cold. So, if a child does not die from the bombing, he will die from the cold,” Abu Tair said.

Meanwhile, talks aimed at brokering a fresh agreement to release further Israeli hostages in Gaza in exchange for a pause in fighting were due to take place in Paris on Sunday between US, Qatari, Israeli and Egyptian officials.

The Associated Press reported that US negotiators including the CIA director, Bill Burns, have provided a framework for negotiations focused on a two-month pause in fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas.

US officials have reportedly proposed an initial 30-day temporary ceasefire while the remaining women, elderly and wounded Israeli hostages are freed. This would be followed by a second 30-day pause where Israeli soldiers and male hostages would be released, in tandem with an increase in the trickle of aid permitted into Gaza.

The halt in fighting could, they hope, provide a further opportunity to negotiate a more durable, long-term ceasefire. – Guardian/Reuters