Israel is preparing for a ground attack in southern Gaza as well
US concern about the way business is conducted
With Israeli leaders declaring control of northern Gaza, including Gaza City, there are growing signs that a ground offensive in the southern part of the strip could be imminent.
Leaflets dropped on Wednesday in communities east of Khan Younis, the largest city in southern Gaza, warned people living there to move and "head to known safe havens". The four communities – Al Qarah, Khuza'a, Bani Suhaila and Absaan – are located near the perimeter fence that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel, suggesting potential new points of incursion by Israeli forces seeking to take control of the south as well.
Aid groups said any Israeli move in the south of the enclave could significantly worsen an already poor humanitarian situation.
"We are very close to destroying the military system that (Hamas) had in the northern Gaza Strip," IDF Chief of Staff Herchi Halevi said Thursday while visiting troops fighting in the strip.
His statement comes after Israeli leaders said earlier in the week that northern Gaza, including Gaza City, was under Israeli control.
We found tunnel shaft and weapons in Al Shifa, IDF says
At the same time Al Shifa Hospital is at the center of an ongoing Israeli military raid that began in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Israel claims to have found a "working tunnel shaft" inside the hospital complex.
"Today, Hamas' tunnel infrastructure was revealed inside the hospital," the Israeli military said in a statement, which also included a photo and video.
Israeli special forces have for weeks said Al Shifa was the site of an underground Hamas command and control center. Doctors and health officials in the Hamas-run enclave have consistently denied the charge.
The army statement said troops also found what they said was a car bomb nearby containing a large quantity of weapons and ammunition.
Baseless IDF lies, says Hamas
Hamas's government media office denied using Al Shifa hospital as a command and control center - calling the Israeli claims "baseless lies".
Hamas accused Israel of providing "false scenarios, fabricated narratives and falsified information" about the Al Shifa Medical Complex, in a written statement. Calling the tunnel shaft claim a "ridiculous scenario", Hamas said it was all "part of a continuous campaign of incitement and deception that has been promoted for years" to justify Israel's wars against Gaza.
"It is a failed attempt to escape future responsibility and legal prosecution," the statement said, adding that the Palestinian Ministry of Health "has repeatedly requested dozens of times from all institutions, organizations, international bodies and relevant parties to form technical teams to visit and inspect all hospitals in order to disprove the false narrative of incitement.”
As access to fuel and other resources dwindles in Gaza, "mass outbreaks of infectious disease and starvation appear inevitable," the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights warned on Thursday. Volker Turk said his office's calls for a de-escalation of violence, particularly in Gaza, have been ignored.
The UN human rights chief also called for an intensification of violence and severe discrimination against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. UNICEF said on Tuesday it had already received reports of increasing levels of dehydration and more than 30.000 cases of diarrhea in Gaza. And a "total communication blackout" is underway in Gaza due to fuel shortages, UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) chief Philippe Lazzarini said on Thursday. In addition, the Jordanian military sent a field hospital to Nablus in the West Bank, the Jordanian Armed Forces said in a statement on Thursday.
Concern in the US about the way Israel conducts business
The US diplomacy yesterday expressed its "deep concern" about the airstrike on a Jordanian military hospital in Gaza that injured seven people, stressing that it opposes "strikes against hospitals from the air".
"We are deeply concerned that there have been injuries," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters, praising the Jordanian government's "incredible work" in providing aid to the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian enclave under ongoing siege. shelling by the Israeli army after the Hamas attack on October 7.
But the US has made no assessment of whether Israel "violated international humanitarian law," State Department spokesman Matt Miller said at a briefing on Thursday. Miller also discussed US concerns that the Israeli government is not suspending the terms of the Visa Waiver Program for US passport holders in the West Bank.
Separately, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken had a call with his Egyptian counterpart to discuss humanitarian aid for Gaza and efforts to get Americans out of the enclave. Elsewhere on Thursday, the European Union's top diplomat Josep Borrell urged Israel "not to be overwhelmed by anger" as the country continues to reel from the October 7 attacks by Hamas.
Continued fighting in Lebanon
Throughout Thursday morning, Israel launched rockets and artillery strikes on the outskirts of the Lebanese border villages of Naqoura, Blida, Alma Al-Shaab and Labouneh, according to Lebanon's National News Agency. Lebanese authorities say the Labouneh area is "almost barren" due to Israel's use of "incendiary bombs".