Iran has warned that the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas will inevitably escalate due to the scale of civilian suffering caused by Israel’s war on the militant group. Officials in Gaza have reported Israeli air strikes on or near several hospitals in the Palestinian enclave, further exacerbating concerns over the destabilization of the Middle East. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian made the comments during a telephone conversation with his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani. Iran’s state-run Press TV reported the remarks, which highlight the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza as thousands seek medical treatment and shelter in the few remaining hospitals.
The Gaza Ministry of Health spokesman, Ashraf Al-Qidra, informed Al Jazeera television that Israeli strikes had targeted a number of hospitals, including the Al Shifa hospital, the largest in Gaza City. Al-Qidra did not provide specific details on casualties, but Israel has alleged that Hamas has hidden command centers and tunnels beneath Al Shifa and other hospitals. These allegations have been denied by Hamas. Israel’s military did not directly comment on Al-Qidra’s statement, but reiterated its position of not targeting civilians. The military stated, “While the world sees neighborhoods with schools, hospitals, scout groups, children’s playgrounds, and mosques, Hamas sees an opportunity to exploit.”
The month-long Israeli military campaign to eradicate Hamas, following the militants’ raid on southern Israel in October, has left Gaza’s hospitals struggling to cope. Medical supplies, clean water, and fuel to power generators are running dangerously low. According to Gaza’s health ministry, 18 of the region’s 35 hospitals and 40 other health centers are out of service due to either shelling damage or lack of fuel. The dire situation has led to a humanitarian catastrophe, with basic supplies dwindling and civilians being displaced from their homes due to shelling.
Videos published by Palestinian media show the aftermath of an Israeli attack on a parking lot near Al Shifa hospital, where displaced Palestinians and journalists were seeking shelter. Human Rights Watch expressed grave concern for the well-being of the civilians, particularly children, seeking medical care and shelter in the vicinity of Al Shifa. Al-Rantisi Pediatric Hospital and Al-Nasr Children’s Hospital have also reportedly come under attack, with strikes causing fires on hospital grounds. The Indonesian Hospital, located at the northern end of the coastal enclave, has also been damaged by explosions.
Israel claims that Hamas uses hospitals like Al Shifa and the Indonesian Hospital to hide command posts and entry points to an extensive tunnel network under Gaza. However, the military’s advance on central Gaza City, bringing tanks within close proximity to Al Shifa, has raised concerns about Israel’s interpretation of international laws protecting medical centers and displaced people. Previous deadly air strikes on refugee camps, a medical convoy, and near hospitals have sparked debates among some of Israel’s Western allies regarding its adherence to international law.
US President Joe Biden has called on Israel to distinguish between terrorists and civilians and fully comply with international law. The ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas shows no signs of abating, and the suffering of civilians continues to escalate. The international community must urgently address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and work towards a peaceful resolution that respects the rights and lives of all those affected by the conflict.