On Monday, 29 preterm newborns were evacuated from war-torn Gaza to Egypt after the Hamas-run health ministry accused Israel of carrying out a lethal strike on the territory’s Indonesian Hospital.
Meanwhile, frantic diplomatic attempts were ongoing to reach an agreement for the return of some of the 240 hostages taken by Hamas terrorists during their October 7 attacks on Israel.
According to the Gaza health ministry, Israel’s army killed at least 12 people in a strike on the Indonesian Hospital in the Palestinian territory’s north, where entire city blocks have been reduced to rubble.
Patients were among those slain, according to Ashraf al-Qudra, a spokeswoman for the ministry, which has claimed a dead toll of over 13,000 as the Gaza war enters its seventh week.
Several more people were injured, and over 700 people remained trapped inside the “besieged” medical center, according to Qudra.
Israel did not immediately respond, but continued its ferocious air and military campaign aimed at destroying Hamas in retaliation to the October 7 attacks, which it claims killed 1,200 people.
More than 2.4 million Palestinians are imprisoned in Gaza, with only a few hundred war-wounded and foreign passport holders able to leave.
On Monday, Egyptian media reported that 29 preterm newborns had been evacuated from Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa, and were being transported to Egypt via the Rafah crossing.
According to AFP, the newborns would be treated at El-Arish hospital, 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of Gaza, or sent to Ismailia or Cairo.
In recent days, Israeli military raided, occupied, and evacuated Al-Shifa hospital, prompting hundreds to escape the region on foot toward southern Gaza.
Israel, backed by the US, claims that Hamas developed huge tunnel networks beneath Al-Shifa for military purposes. It had displayed recovered weaponry but had yet to uncover indications of a massive military headquarters underground.
On Sunday, when another Gaza building was hit in Deir al-Balah, south of Gaza City, rescuers combed through the rubble for survivors and bodies, using the flashlights on their phones in the rain.
“There are only children and women in the house and no one else,” exclaimed one resident.
“How can that give them (the Israeli army) an excuse to hit it? … We don’t have any equipment to pull people out from under the rubble.”
‘Like The Apocalypse’
The grave humanitarian situation in Gaza has sparked widespread concern.
According to the Hamas-run government, the Israeli offensive has killed over 13,000 people, including thousands of children, increasing global pressure for a truce.
The United Nations humanitarian agency OCHA has characterized a “collapse of services” at hospitals due to a lack of electricity, fuel, and medical supplies.
According to Palestinian sources, Jordan sent a field hospital into Gaza on Monday.
“The hospital will be established in Khan Yunis, to receive the wounded and the sick, under catastrophic conditions which southern hospitals are experiencing, with the influx of hundreds of wounded each day and continued aggressive aerial and artillery strikes,” said Mohammed Zaqout, director-general of Gaza hospitals.
Israel presented evidence on Sunday that Hamas utilized Al-Shifa to hide foreign hostages and conceal tunnels, claims the group disputes.
Images released by Israel showed a 55-metre-long tunnel, as well as CCTV footage from October 7 of two male hostages from Nepal and Thailand being taken there.
“We have not yet located both of these hostages,” army spokesman Daniel Hagari told reporters.
AFP could not immediately verify the footage.
Israel also accused the extremist organization of killing Israeli soldier Noa Marciano, 19, in Al-Shifa.
According to the UN humanitarian organization, another 20,000 civilians fled south on Sunday as fierce urban battle raged in northern Gaza.
As gunshots and explosions sounded out in the background, families wandered across wreckage and down shattered roadways.
“It’s like the apocalypse, it’s difficult, very difficult,” said one tearful woman, Renad al-Helou. “There are those who have lost sons and daughters, the wounded, pregnant women.
“We are tired. There’s no water, no food … There’s nothing left in Gaza. There’s only destruction, suffering and torture.”
The Israeli army announced on Sunday that it was expanding its fight against Hamas in Gaza to “additional neighborhoods.”
Several houses in central Gaza City were devastated by artillery and airstrikes, and medics at the Al-Ahli hospital informed AFP that they had received scores of dead and injured.
The Indonesian Hospital is near the Jabalia refugee camp, where a health official reported on Saturday that more than 80 people were murdered in twin attacks, including on a UN school housing displaced people.
According to the Israeli military, Jabalia is one among the regions of concentration as they “target terrorists and strike Hamas infrastructure.”
Israeli forces were also reportedly hammering southern Gaza, where the Doctors Without Borders charity reported 122 casualties at a facility in Khan Yunis, with 70 of them dead on arrival.
The Gaza conflict has raised worries of a larger conflict in the Middle East, where Israel has long confronted arch-enemy Iran and its allies.
Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels announced on Sunday that they had seized a cargo ship owned by an Israeli businessman in the Red Sea and diverted it to Yemen’s coast.
The ship was “hijacked with Iran’s guidance by the Yemenite Huthi militia,” according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, an allegation Iran denied on Monday.
‘Hole In Our Hearts’
Israel has refused to heed calls for a ceasefire before Hamas releases all hostages, among them infants, teens and pensioners.
In London, the tearful father of missing nine-year-old Emily Hand begged for her to be freed.
“There’s just a big, big hole in all our hearts that won’t be filled until she comes home again,” he told AFP.
Qatari mediators on Sunday touted progress on a deal that would free some hostages and pause the fighting, pointing to only “very minor” practical challenges.
Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said: “I’m now more confident that we are close enough to reach a deal.”
But neither details nor a timeline were provided.
US deputy national security adviser Jon Finer also told US media that negotiators were “closer than we have been in quite some time” to a deal.
But he cautioned: “The mantra that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed really does apply.”