Palestinian Territories – Twenty-eight premature babies were evacuated from the war-ravaged Gaza Strip to Egypt on Monday, after the Hamas-led health ministry blamed Israel for a deadly attack on an Indonesian hospital in the territory.
As fighting continued, negotiators worked to seal an agreement to release some of the approximately 240 hostages that Islamist militants took during the unprecedented Oct. 7 attacks on Israel.
Gaza’s health ministry has blamed the Israeli army for killing at least 12 people in an attack on an Indonesian hospital in the northern Palestinian territory, where entire neighborhoods of the city were reduced to rubble.
A ministry spokesman said the dead included patients.
Hamas authorities have reported that a total of over 13,300 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the seventh week of the Israel-Hamas war.
Late Monday, Qudra reported that around 100 patients had so far been evacuated from an Indonesian hospital in consultation with the Red Cross.
READ: Israel-Hamas hostage deal fast approaching despite fierce fighting in Gaza
Hundreds of people remained inside, but efforts continued to move them to hospitals in southern Gaza, Qudra added.
Israel did not immediately comment.
The military continued its withering air and ground campaign to destroy Hamas in response to the Oct. 7 attacks in which officials said about 1,200 people were killed as militants breached Gaza’s militarized border.
“We are witnessing killings of civilians that are unparalleled and unprecedented in any conflict since I have been Secretary-General,” said United Nations chief Antonio Guterres.
More than 2.4 million Palestinians are trapped in Gaza, and only a few hundred war-wounded, foreigners and dual-passport holders have been released.
On Monday, the UN World Health Organization said 28 premature babies evacuated from Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa, were brought to safety in Egypt through the Rafah border crossing, a figure reported by Egyptian media lowered by one.
“All children are fighting serious infections and continue to need health care,” the WHO said, while the Israeli army said it had “helped facilitate” the transfer.
At an Israeli mall in Tel Aviv, families of Israeli children held hostage by Hamas were among hundreds of people demonstrating in front of the UN Children’s Fund, which called for a voice for their release.
Yoni Asher, whose daughters Raz, four, and Aviv, two, are among the captives, called on UNICEF to take a public stance on Israeli children, “just as you specifically address children on the other side.”
Sirens warning of incoming Hamas rockets abruptly ended the demonstration, causing some people to run for cover and others to throw themselves to the ground.
US President Joe Biden said on Monday that he believed an agreement to release the Gaza hostages was imminent. “I believe so,” he said during a ceremony at the White House.
The Red Cross said its president traveled to Qatar to meet with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh, as well as officials in the emirate separately, which helped facilitate hostage talks.
During the bloodiest war in Gaza history, Israeli troops attacked, occupied and evacuated Al-Shifa Hospital.
Israel, backed by the United States, argues that Hamas used the vast network of tunnels under Al-Shifa for military purposes. It showed the recovered weapons, and on Sunday it said it had discovered a 55-meter tunnel.
READ: A preliminary agreement has been reached in the Gaza Strip regarding the release of some hostages, cessation of fighting – report
It also published CCTV footage showing two male hostages being brought to the facility.
Fighters and medical staff have denied that there is a command center beneath the hospital, and Israel has yet to reveal evidence that a major military command exists underground.
The charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Monday on X, formerly Twitter, that its clinic in Gaza City had come under fire “as heavy fighting took place around it. An Israeli tank was seen on the street.”
MSF said twenty-one people inside were “in extreme danger.”
“Like the Apocalypse”
Alarm has grown over the dire humanitarian situation across Gaza, where cold autumn rain has deepened misery, drenching families living in tents and turning dust to mud.
WHO warned of the spread of disease, with 44,000 cases of diarrhea and 70,000 acute respiratory infections recorded in shelters.
With most of Gaza’s hospitals no longer functioning, the territory on Monday received what Palestinian officials said was its first field hospital since the beginning of the war from Jordan.
According to the Jordanian royal palace, it can accommodate 41 beds.
Israel has ordered Palestinians to leave northern Gaza for their safety, but deadly airstrikes continue to hit central and southern areas.
Families walked along broken roads as gunshots and explosions rang out in the distance.
“It’s like the apocalypse,” said a tearful woman, Renad al-Helou.
“We are tired. There is no water, there is no food… There is nothing left in Gaza. There is only destruction, suffering and torture.”
On Monday, a senior Israeli military official told reporters that if the army wants to eliminate Hamas’ firepower, “we have to go south. We can’t do this without “going there.”
The war in Gaza has raised fears of a wider conflagration in the Middle East, where Israel has long faced archenemy Iran and its allies.
The Iran-backed Lebanese movement Hezbollah, allied with Hamas, said on Monday it had used drones, artillery and rockets to target soldiers in northern Israel, saying it had carried out a series of new attacks.
In response to the firing of rockets from a “terrorist cell,” the Israeli military said tanks, a fighter jet and a helicopter struck Hezbollah targets in Lebanon.
On Sunday, Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen said they had seized a cargo ship linked to an Israeli businessman in the Red Sea.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the ship “was hijacked under Iran’s leadership by Yemen’s Houthi militia,” an allegation Iran denied.
During Monday’s meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, Jordan’s King Abdullah II called for a ceasefire in Gaza and “an end to the siege.”
He warned of the “catastrophic consequences of the ongoing heinous war that is killing innocent, defenseless civilians” as well as growing settler violence in the occupied West Bank.
Israel has refused to heed calls for a ceasefire before Hamas releases all hostages.
South Africa, long a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause, will host a virtual summit of the BRICS group of nations on Tuesday to discuss the Israel-Hamas war.
On the eve of the event, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it had summoned its ambassador in Pretoria for consultations.