Daily Press (Sunday)

Netanyahu rejects cease-fire calls

Gaza’s main hospital in deadly crossfire of Israel-Hamas battle

- By Wafaa Shurafa and Bassem Mroue

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed back Saturday against growing internatio­nal calls for a cease-fire, saying Israel’s battle to crush Gaza’s ruling Hamas militants will continue with “full force.”

A cease-fire would be possible only if all 239 hostages held in Gaza are released, Netanyahu said in a televised address.

The Israeli leader also insisted that after the war, now entering its sixth week, Gaza would be demilitari­zed and Israel would retain security control there. Asked what he meant by security control, Netanyahu said Israeli forces must be able to enter Gaza freely to hunt down combatants.

He also rejected the idea that the Palestinia­n Authority, which administer­s autonomous areas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, would at some stage control Gaza. Both positions run counter to postwar scenarios floated by Israel’s closest ally, the United States.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the U.S. opposes an Israeli reoccupati­on of Gaza and envisions a unified Palestinia­n government in both Gaza and the West Bank at some stage as a step toward Palestinia­n statehood.

For now, Netanyahu said, “the war against (Hamas) is advancing with full force, and it has one goal, to win. There is no alternativ­e to victory.”

Pressure was growing on

Israel after frantic doctors at Gaza’s largest hospital said the last generator had run out of fuel, causing the death of a premature baby, another child in an incubator and four other patients. Thousands of war-wounded, medical staff and displaced civilians were caught in the fighting.

In recent days, fighting near Shifa and other hospitals in northern Gaza has intensifie­d and supplies have run out. The Israeli military has alleged, without evidence, that Hamas has establishe­d command posts in and underneath hospitals, using civilians as human shields. Medical staffers at Shifa have denied such claims and accused Israel of harming

civilians with indiscrimi­nate attacks.

Shifa hospital director Mohammed Abu Selmia said the facility lost power Saturday.

“Medical devices stopped. Patients, especially those in intensive care, started to die,” he said by phone, with gunfire and explosions in the background. He said Israeli troops were “shooting at anyone outside or inside the hospital” and prevented movement between buildings.

Israel’s military confirmed clashes outside the hospital, but Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari denied Shifa was under siege.

Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military

intelligen­ce, told broadcaste­r Channel 12 that as Israel aims to crush Hamas, taking control of the hospitals would be key but require “a lot of tactical creativity,” without hurting patients, other civilians and Israeli hostages.

The “unbearably desperate situation” at Shifa must stop now, the Internatio­nal Committee of the Red Cross director general, Robert Mardini, said on social media.

Elsewhere, the Palestinia­n Red Crescent said Israeli tanks were 65 feet from al-Quds hospital in Gaza City’s Tal al-Hawa neighborho­od, causing “a state of extreme panic and fear”

among the 14,000 displaced people sheltering there.

Israel’s military released footage that it said showed tanks operating in Gaza. The footage showed shattered buildings, some on fire, and streets empty of anyone but troops.

A 57-nation gathering of Muslim and Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia called in their communique for an end to the war in Gaza and the immediate delivery of humanitari­an aid. They also called on the Internatio­nal Court of Justice to open an investigat­ion into Israel’s attacks, saying the war “cannot be called selfdefens­e and cannot be justified under any means.”

Netanyahu has said the responsibi­lity for any harm to civilians lies with Hamas, which has been designated as a terrorist organizati­on by the United States.

A Hamas official denied its fighters opened fire at residents trying to leave Gaza City or its hospitals.

Speaking by phone, Ghazi Hamad called such assertions by Israel lies and said Hamas doesn’t have guards at hospital gates to prevent people from entering or leaving.

The spokesman of the Hamas military wing said combatants were ambushing Israeli troops and vowed that Israel will face a long battle.

Israel’s military has said soldiers have encountere­d hundreds of Hamas fighters in undergroun­d facilities, schools, mosques and clinics during the fighting. Israel has said a key goal of the war is to crush Hamas, which has ruled Gaza for 16 years.

Following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, in which at least 1,200 people were killed, Israel’s allies have defended the country’s right to protect itself. But now there are growing difference­s over how Israel should conduct its fight.

The U.S. has been pushing for temporary pauses that would allow for wider distributi­on of badly needed aid to civilians in the besieged territory where conditions are increasing­ly dire. However, Israel has only agreed to brief daily periods during which civilians can flee the area of ground combat in northern Gaza and head south on foot along the territory’s main north-south artery.

More than 11,070 Palestinia­ns have been killed since the war began, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza.

 ?? AFP/ISRAELI ARMY ?? Israeli imagery released Saturday shows soldiers taking up positions near an army bulldozer in the Gaza Strip.
AFP/ISRAELI ARMY Israeli imagery released Saturday shows soldiers taking up positions near an army bulldozer in the Gaza Strip.

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