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Israel forces search Gaza hospital as civilians stranded inside

An Israeli army photo shows troops during a military operation in the northern Gaza Strip
— Gaza Strip (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)

Israeli forces were searching building to building at Gaza's main hospital Thursday as Hamas said the military had "destroyed" parts of the compound where concern has mounted for Palestinians trapped inside.

Soldiers raided Al-Shifa since early Wednesday in the hunt for a command centre they say the militants built below the complex, a charge denied by Hamas and managers at the hospital which has become a focal point of the war.

The Israeli military said it found rifles, ammunition and explosives at the Gaza City hospital, as well as computers and equipment containing "information and footage pertaining to the hostages" taken in Hamas's shock October 7 attack on Israel.

The body of a woman taken captive in the attack was also found close to the hospital, the Israeli army said.

A nurse moves an an injured Palestinian boy in the the Al-Aqsa Hospital

"Yehudit (Weiss) was murdered by the terrorists in the Gaza Strip and we didn't manage to reach her in time," army spokesman Daniel Hagari said.

Soldiers were meanwhile proceeding with their search of the hospital "one building at a time, searching each floor," an Israeli army official said.

Ashraf Al-Qudra, spokesman for the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, told AFP Israeli troops "destroyed the radiology service, and bombed the burns and dialysis departments" in their raid.

"Thousands of women, children, sick and wounded are in danger of death," he said.

Before Israel first sent troops into the hospital complex, UN agencies estimated that 2,300 patients, staff and displaced civilians were sheltering at Al-Shifa without enough food, water and fuel for generators.

Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas in retaliation for the attacks of October 7, which killed 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and saw about 240 people taken hostage, according to Israeli officials.

Fighting in the Gaza Strip

The Israeli military says 51 of its troops have been killed in Gaza since fighting began.

And with the Hamas government media office saying the death toll from the offensive has hit 11,500, including thousands of children, calls for a truce are mounting.

Gaza's 36 hospitals have been caught up in the war, with more than half rendered non-functioning by shortages, combat or damage, the UN has said.

The Red Crescent said on Wednesday a "violent attack" was underway on Gaza's Al-Ahli hospital, which was hit by a deadly strike last month.

Hamas blamed the October 17 blast on Israel, while Israel said a misfired Islamic Jihad group rocket was responsible, a position supported by US and some other Western security officials.

- 'Meaningless' UN resolution -

The UN Security Council on Wednesday set aside deep divisions over the conflict to agree a resolution calling for "urgent and extended humanitarian pauses" in fighting.

The resolution -- which passed with abstentions from the United States, Britain and Russia -- called on Hamas and Israel to protect civilians, "especially children".

A billboard displays the photo of Israeli hostage Liri Albag

Israel has agreed to temporary localised pauses in fighting, but has rejected calls for a broader ceasefire.

The resolution was "disconnected from reality and is meaningless," Israel's envoy to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

The Israeli foreign ministry called on the Security Council and the international community to "stand firm on the prompt release" of all those kidnapped, which the resolution also calls for.

"Extended humanitarian pauses are untenable as long as 239 abductees remain in the hands of Hamas terrorists," it said.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said in a televised speech that Israel had "achieved none of its objectives" in the war and would secure "the liberation of the hostages only at the price fixed by the resistance".

Speculation has swirled about the possibility of a deal for the release of captives, with third parties to the conflict acting as mediators between the two sides.

"These are very delicate negotiations. We are in contact with Hamas, with other international interested parties, and with Israel," Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said.

"We are hopeful that our efforts and the efforts of others will bring about the speedy release."

- Risk of 'starvation' -

Israel has concentrated its heavy bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza City, announcing this week the seizure of the parliament building, government offices, Hamas police headquarters and a key port.

Israel's army claimed an initial raid in Al-Shifa had uncovered military equipment, weapons and what spokesman Hagari described as "an operational headquarters with comms equipment".

A video narrated by another Israeli army spokesman showed rifles and ammunition magazines inside an area he identified as Al-Shifa's MRI scanner building.

European Union Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell (C) walks past debris during his visit to Kibbutz Beeri

The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza argued Wednesday the Israeli military did not find any weapons when it raided the hospital.

The death and suffering in the densely populated coastal territory has prompted growing concern for Gaza's civilians, who have fled south to try to escape the heaviest combat.

"We were in pain along the road... I feel pain in the knee," said Ahmad Abu Sabra, wounded evacuee from the Al-Quds hospital in Gaza City.

The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) said Thursday that civilians in Gaza faced difficult months ahead as food and water have become "practically non-existent".

"With winter fast approaching, unsafe and overcrowded shelters, and the lack of clean water, civilians are facing the immediate possibility of starvation," the WFP's executive director Cindy McCain said in a statement.

- Call for probe -

UN human rights chief Volker Turk pointed to what he called serious allegations of international law violations in the Israel-Hamas war and suggested an international investigation was needed.

"Where national authorities prove unwilling or unable to carry out such investigations, and where there are contested narratives on particularly significant incidents, international investigation is called for," he said.

Turk also warned against a "potentially explosive situation" in the occupied West Bank, where violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians has surged since the start of the war in Gaza along with Israeli army raids that have turned deadly.

Three gunmen on Thursday attacked an Israeli checkpoint on a road leading into Jerusalem from the West Bank, killing a member of Israel's security forces and wounding five others, before being shot dead.

Israeli soldier Avraham Fetena, 20, died of injuries sustained during the attack, the army said.

Hamas's armed wing claimed responsibility for the shooting, saying in a post on Telegram that it was "in revenge for the blood of the martyrs in Gaza".