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Israeli airstrike hits hospital tent camp in central Gaza

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Deir Al-Balah (Gaza Strip), March 31: An Israeli airstrike hit a tent camp in the courtyard of a crowded hospital in central Gaza on Sunday, killing two Palestinians and wounding another 15, including journalists working nearby.
An Associated Press reporter filmed the strike and aftermath at the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah, where thousands of people have sheltered after fleeing their homes elsewhere in the war-ravaged territory. People including women and children scattered and cried out.
The Israeli military said it struck a command centre of the Islamic Jihad militant group and claimed the hospital’s functioning was not affected.
Tens of thousands of people have sought shelter in Gaza’s hospitals since the start of the war nearly six months ago, viewing them as relatively safe from airstrikes. Israel accuses Hamas and other militants of operating in and around medical facilities, and troops have raided a number of hospitals.
Israeli troops have been raiding Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest, for nearly two weeks and say they have fought heavy battles with militants in and around the medical compound. The military says it has killed scores of fighters, including senior Hamas operatives. It said on Sunday it had found numerous weapons hidden there.
Palestinian families who fled from the area, including many who had been displaced earlier in the war, say they were ordered to march south by Israeli soldiers after days of heavy fighting.
Only a third of Gaza’s hospitals are even partially functioning, while Israeli strikes kill and wound scores of people every day. Doctors say they are often forced to treat patients on hospital floors because all the beds are taken, and to operate without anesthetic and other crucial medical supplies.
Those wounded in Sunday’s strike lay on the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital floor and gasped while being treated, one clutching at the underside of a stretcher that held someone else.
An international team of doctors who recently visited the hospital said they were horrified by the war’s gruesome impact on Palestinian children.
The World Health Organization director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, says around 9,000 patients urgently need to be evacuated abroad for lifesaving care.
The United Nations and partners have warned that famine could occur in devastated, largely isolated northern Gaza as early as this month.
Humanitarian officials say deliveries by sea and air are not enough and that Israel must allow far more aid by road. Egypt has said thousands of trucks are waiting.
The top UN court has ordered Israel to open more land crossings and take other measures to address the crisis.
The United States, Qatar and Egypt have been trying to broker another cease-fire and hostage release since January. The cease-fire talks resumed in Cairo on Sunday, with little expectation of any breakthrough.
Hamas is demanding that any such agreement lead to an end to the war and the withdrawal of all Israeli forces.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected those demands and says Israel will keep fighting until it has destroyed Hamas’ military and governing capabilities. But he is under growing pressure to reach a deal from families of the hostages, some of whom have joined mass demonstrations calling for early elections to replace him.
On Saturday night, families of hostages said weekly protests would take to the streets of Israel from now on. (AP)

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