An Israeli airstrike detonated near the entrance of Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Friday, killing several people, according to Gazan and Israeli officials, just as Palestinians said a convoy of ambulances was preparing to leave the hospital carrying wounded people to the Gaza border, to cross into Egypt for treatment.
The Israeli military said it had carried out the strike on an ambulance “being used by a Hamas terrorist cell,” adding in a statement that “a number of Hamas terrorist operatives were killed in the strike.” An Israeli military spokesman, Maj. Nir Dinar, confirmed that it was the same strike that caused the explosion outside the hospital.
The head of Al Shifa Hospital, Dr. Mohammad Abu Salmiya, said that 13 people had been killed and many were injured. He said that paramedics and patients in the evacuation convoy were among the injured, but that none had been killed.
The explosion happened about 4:30 p.m., according to local reports.
Hours earlier, a spokesman for the Health Ministry, Ashraf al-Qudra, had announced in a news conference that a convoy carrying “a large number of injured people” would head south on Al Rasheed, a coastal highway, at 4 p.m., toward the Rafah border crossing. A number of severely injured people have in recent days been taken to Egypt for medical treatment that is not available in the Gaza Strip.
Al Shifa Hospital has been at the center of numerous claims and crises since the start of the war. Israel says that Hamas, which controls Gaza and orchestrated a deadly attack on Israel on Oct. 7, is operating a command center beneath the hospital. Hamas has denied that.
Displaced Gazans are living in and around the facility, believing it to be safer than other alternatives.
The Gazan health ministry and international aid groups say Al Shifa is running out of fuel and has had to curtail operations amid a continued cutoff of electricity and fuel from Israel. Doctors have said they are treating large numbers of people wounded in airstrikes without enough medicine and supplies.
Ismail Alghoull, who was filming inside the hospital at that time of the explosion, said he heard a blast near the ambulances and ran outside to see what had happened. He saw dozens of casualties, he said.
Salama Maarouf, the government spokesman, said that one of his employees, Haytham Harara, was among the dead.
Ali Jadallah, a photographer for Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency, said that he was at the hospital with his sister. They were visiting their mother, who had been severely injured in an attack that destroyed their family home and killed four of their siblings as well as their father. They were near the entrance of the hospital when the explosion occurred, he said. His sister was hit by shrapnel.
Yousur Al-Hlou, Neil Collier, Patrick Kingsley and Nader Ibrahim contributed reporting.