*** ----> WHO 'terribly worried' as battle rages at Gaza's largest hospital | THE DAILY TRIBUNE | KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN

WHO 'terribly worried' as battle rages at Gaza's largest hospital

AFP | Geneva, Switzerland                                              

The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com

The World Health Organization chief voiced alarm Monday after Israeli forces launched an operation at Gaza's largest hospital, Al-Shifa, warning the fighting was "endangering health workers, patients and civilians".

"We are terribly worried about the situation at Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

"Hospitals should never be battlegrounds."

Israeli forces launched a pre-dawn raid on the hospital, based on what the army termed intelligence "indicating the use of the hospital by senior Hamas terrorists".

The health ministry of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip said residents near the hospital had reported dozens of casualties who could not be helped "due to the intensity of gunfire and artillery shelling".

The Hamas government media office condemned as a "war crime" the "storming of the Al-Shifa medical complex with tanks, drones and weapons, and shooting inside". It said  thousands of displaced Palestinians were sheltering there.

Hospitals -- protected under international humanitarian law -- have been hit repeatedly during Israeli strikes on Gaza since the war erupted on October 7.

The Israeli military accuses Hamas of using medical facilities as command centres, a charge it denies.

The Israeli army had previously raided Al-Shifa in November, sparking an international outcry, in an operation in which it said its troops had found weapons and other military equipment in rooms in and below the hospital.

Tedros pointed out Monday that Al-Shifa had "only recently restored minimal health services".

"Any hostilities or militarisation of the facility jeopardise health services, access for ambulances, and delivery of life-saving supplies," he warned.

"Hospitals must be protected. Ceasefire!"

The Gaza war broke out after Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on October 7 that resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

The Islamist militants also seized about 250 hostages, of whom Israel believes 130 remain in Gaza, including 33 who are presumed dead.

Israel, vowing to destroy Hamas and free the captives, has carried out a relentless bombing campaign and ground offensive that Gaza's health ministry says has killed at least 31,726 people, mostly women and children.