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Middle East crisis

Israeli West Bank hospital raid stokes fears Gaza war will spread further

Israeli West Bank hospital raid stokes fears Gaza war will spread further
Palestinians search for bodies and survivors among the rubble of a destroyed house following Israeli airstrikes in Deir Al Balah, Gaza Strip, 29 January 2024. More than 26,200 Palestinians and at least 1,330 Israelis have been killed, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), since Hamas militants launched an attack against Israel from the Gaza Strip on 07 October 2023, and the Israeli operations in Gaza and the West Bank which followed it. EPA-EFE/MOHAMMED SABER

WEST BANK/GAZA/DOHA, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Israel said undercover commandos killed three Palestinian militants in a raid on a hospital in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, a further sign that Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza is spreading to other fronts.

In the northern Gaza Strip, Israeli forces fought battles with Hamas fighters that forced more Palestinian residents to flee to safer areas, and southern parts of the coastal enclave were hit by Israeli air strikes.

The United States meanwhile was weighing its response to a drone attack by Iran-backed militants which killed three U.S. soldiers in Jordan on Sunday.

CCTV footage of the West Bank hospital raid appeared to show around a dozen troops, including three in women’s garb and two dressed as Palestinian medical staff, pacing through a corridor with rifles.

Hamas said one of the dead in Ibn Sina hospital in the city of Jenin was a member of the militant Islamist group. The allied faction Islamic Jihad said the other two killed were brothers and member of the faction. Ibn Sina said one of the brothers had been receiving treatment for an injury that paralysed his legs.

The Israeli military said this showed that militants were using civilian areas and hospitals as shelters and “human shields”. Hamas has previously denied such allegations.

Israel’s military also said one of those killed had a pistol.

While the West Bank – an area that Palestinians envisage as part of a hoped-for independent state – had seen increased violence even before the outbreak of the Gaza war, the hospital raid could fuel a more intense phase of unrest.

The Israeli military identified one of the slain men as Mohammed Jalamneh, 27, from Jenin, who it said had contacts with Hamas headquarters abroad and was planning an attack inspired by the Hamas rampage in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

Israel unleashed its assault on Gaza in response to that attack in which 1,200 Israelis were killed and 253 taken hostage. More than 100 hostages remain captive in Gaza.

Since then some 26,637 Palestinians have been killed and at least 65,000 others wounded by Israeli military strikes, according to the Gaza health ministry, with the death toll increasing by the day.

Israel says its forces have killed around 9,000 Palestinian combatants in Gaza, and that 221 of its soldiers have been killed in the fighting.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said on Tuesday the group had received a ceasefire proposal put forward after talks in Paris and would study it, adding that he would visit Cairo for discussions on the plan.

Haniyeh said the group’s priority was to end Israel’s military offensive and a full pullout of Israeli forces from Gaza.

The war has created a humanitarian crisis, with wide areas of Gaza flattened, hundreds of thousands of people left destitute, and supplies of food, water and medicines almost exhausted.

 

TANKS IN ACTION

Israel mounted a new push in the north of Gaza after earlier reporting successes against Palestinian militants there. The militants’ presence in the area suggests Israel’s campaign to eradicate Hamas is not going to plan.

Hamas appears to have been able to regroup in Gaza City as the war, now in its fourth month, shows no sign of letting up despite international concern over the plight of civilians.

Much of Tuesday’s action in Gaza was focused on the Beach refugee camp and near the Al Shifa hospital, residents said. Israeli tanks broke into one shelter site and soldiers rounded up dozens of men.

Residents and health officials also said an Israeli tank opened fire against dozens of Palestinians near Al-Kuwaiti Square on the southern edge of Gaza City where aid trucks unload their shipments, killing two people and wounding others.

The fighting caused new waves of people to flee within Gaza City and to the south towards Deir Al-Balah in the centre. Those leaving had to pass Israeli tanks stationed on the coastal road.

Heavy bombing also hit western and southern suburbs of Gaza.

In the south, Israeli forces kept up pressure in the city of Khan Younis, maintaining their encirclement of the two main hospitals.

The Gaza Health Ministry and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said patients, medical teams, and many of the displaced inside the two facilities were at risk because of continued Israeli fire.

Palestinian health officials said at least 10 Palestinians were killed in two separate Israeli air strikes in Khan Younis and in Deir Al-Balah. They said the number could be bigger as rescue workers were searching for victims who might be trapped under the rubble.

The United States meanwhile said it would take “all necessary actions” to defend U.S. forces after the drone attack by Iran-backed militants on Sunday.

White House National Security spokesman John Kirby said on Monday the United States did not want a wider war with Iran or in the region, “but we got to do what we have to do”.

Iran has denied any role in the attack.

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch and Daniel Williams in Jerusalem, Nidal Al Mughrabi in Doha, Suleiman Al-Khalidi in Amman, Clauda Tanios in Dubai, Writing by Michael Perry and Angus MacSwan, Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Timothy Heritage)

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