Israel has acknowledged its involvement in an airstrike outside Gaza City's Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest facility in the region. According to Israeli authorities, a military aircraft targeted an ambulance used by members of Hamas.
In a post on X late Friday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said: "A Hamas terrorist cell was identified using an ambulance. In response, an IDF aircraft struck and neutralized the Hamas terrorists, who were operating within the ambulance.
We emphasize that this area in Gaza is a war zone. Civilians are repeatedly called upon to evacuate southward for their own safety."
In a separate statement, the military said that the ambulance was "being used by a Hamas terrorist cell in close proximity to their position in the battle zone".
“A number of Hamas terrorist operatives were killed in the strike. We have information which demonstrates that Hamas' method of operation is to transfer terror operatives and weapons in ambulances," CNN quoted the statement as saying.
But the UN Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) has said that "a convoy of ambulances evacuating patients from Shifa hospital in Gaza city to the Rafah crossing with Egypt, was struck three times in the vicinity of the hospital".
According to preliminary reports, the United Nations organization stated that a minimum of 13 individuals lost their lives, and 26 others sustained injuries in the incident.
Before this development, a representative of the Palestinian Health Ministry, based in Gaza, revealed that the ambulance was part of a medical convoy departing from the hospital, en route to the Rafah border crossing. The ministry had also communicated this move to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
In response, the ICRC acknowledged having prior knowledge of the planned transfer of a convoy containing wounded patients from northern Gaza to the southern part of the region, although they were not directly involved in it.
"We were informed by the MoH (Ministry of Health) about the planned convoy, but we were not part of it," the ICRC told CNN.
"Even if we were not present, this is still medical convoy, and any violence towards medical personnel is unacceptable... No doctors, nurses, or any medical professionals should ever die while working to save lives."
As a result of the severe shortage of fuel in the Hamas-controlled enclave, one of the generators in the the Al-Shifa Hospital reportedly stopped working on Friday, according to the UNRWA.
Another generator is still operating, but it is only covering about half of the hospital’s needs, it said.
Since the commencement of hostilities, 14 out of the 35 hospitals equipped for inpatient care have ceased operations. Additionally, 51, which amounts to 71 percent, of all primary healthcare facilities throughout Gaza (totaling 72) have been forced to close due to either damage sustained or the unavailability of fuel.
(With Agency Inputs)