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UNSC to vote on new Gaza ceasefire draft as Israel besieges three hospitals

United Nations chief says ‘growing consensus emerging in international community to tell Israel a ceasefire is needed’.

Smoke billows after Israeli bombardment on Khan Yunis
Smoke billows after Israeli bombardment on Khan Yunis [File: Said Khatib/AFP]

The Israeli military has besieged three hospitals in Gaza, with medical teams under heavy gunfire, as a divided United Nations Security Council is set to vote on a new draft resolution calling for an “immediate” ceasefire in the enclave.

The resolution does not link a pause in hostilities to the release of Israeli captives being held in Gaza, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a news conference in Amman, Jordan, on Monday. This was one of the reasons why the previous draft was vetoed.

Russia and China on Friday vetoed a text proposed by the United States, criticising it as “exceedingly politicised” and saying it did not clearly state opposition to Israel’s long-threatened ground operation in Rafah, the southernmost Gaza city where about 1.5 million displaced Palestinians are sheltering.

Guterres – who visited the Egyptian side of the border with the Gaza Strip not far from Rafah on Saturday – said there was a “growing consensus emerging in the international community to tell Israel a ceasefire is needed”, and to “tell clearly to the Israelis that any ground invasion of Rafah could mean a catastrophic humanitarian disaster”.

China said it supported the new UNSC draft resolution which is due to be voted on later on Monday. “We hope the Security Council will pass it as soon as possible and send a strong signal for the cessation of hostilities,” foreign ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said.

The new text is expected to demand “an immediate ceasefire” for the ongoing Muslim holy month of Ramadan, “leading to a permanent sustainable ceasefire”.

‘Gaza turned into graveyard’

Israeli forces surrounded the al-Amal and Nasser hospitals in southern Gaza, while pressing on with their siege of Gaza City’s al-Shifa Hospital, the largest medical complex in the Strip.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said one of its staff members was killed when Israeli tanks suddenly pushed back into areas around the al-Amal and Nasser hospitals in Khan Younis amid heavy bombardment and gunfire.

Reporting from Rafah, Al Jazeera’s Hani Mahmoud said: “Military vehicles, tanks and attack drones are encircling these two facilities. They’re also blocking the entrance with piles of sand, preventing medical staff, patients and injured people inside from leaving safely and constantly failing to provide a safe corridor for people and evacuees trapped inside the hospital.”

Nebal Farsakh, a spokesperson for PRCS, told Al Jazeera of Israeli orders to evacuate the facilities, adding that “at the same time they are firing bombs at the hospital”.

“Everyone inside the hospital [medical staff, patients, the wounded] is trapped since there is very intense and heavy gunfire.”

Mahmoud said people inside al-Amal Hospital were being ordered, via loudspeakers, “to come out only with their underwear on”.

Reporting from Rafah, Al Jazeera’s Tareq Abu Azzoum said the two hospitals in Khan Younis have been under Israeli siege for more than 24 hours.

“Gaza has been turned into a graveyard, with hospitals and houses being attacked and destroyed,” he said.

“Israeli forces at al-Amal Hospital have been forcing patients to flee from the hospital under really critical conditions, while there are still patients inside unable to leave as the bombardment and confrontations between Hamas fighters and Israeli soldiers continue.”

The Israeli military said its troops began operating around al-Amal following “precise intelligence … which indicated that terrorists are using civilian infrastructure for terror activities in the area of al-Amal”.

Israel alleges that hospitals in Gaza, where the war has been raging for more than five months, are used by Hamas as bases. Israeli authorities have released videos and pictures that they say support their claim.

Hamas and medical staff deny the accusations.

Al-Shifa Hospital under fire

The Hamas-run Gaza government media office said Israeli forces had killed five Palestinian doctors. The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Right now, Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists are barricading themselves inside Shifa Hospital wards,” said Israeli military spokesperson Daniel Hagari, also claiming that gunmen were firing at his soldiers from inside the emergency and maternity wards.

On Monday, the Israeli military claimed to have arrested 500 Hamas and Islamic Jihad members at al-Shifa Hospital since its week-old operation began.

Ismail al-Thawabta, the director of Gaza’s government media office, said: “How can they claim this while their soldiers roam and frolic inside the complex with ease, conducting interrogations with displaced persons, patients, and the wounded.”

Jameel al-Ayoubi, who was one of thousands of Palestinians sheltering at the hospital, saw Israeli tanks and armoured bulldozers drive over at least four bodies in the hospital courtyard, The Associated Press news agency reported. Ambulances were also crushed, he said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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