Palestinian medics ready premature babies, evacuated from Gaza City's Al-Shifa hospital, for transfer from a hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip to Egypt

Gaza Strip (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - Twenty-eight premature babies were evacuated from war-devastated Gaza to Egypt on Monday as the Hamas-run health ministry accused Israel of a deadly strike on the territory’s Indonesian Hospital.

While fighting raged, negotiators worked to seal a deal for the release of some of the 240 hostages the Islamist militants took during their unprecedented October 7 attacks on Israel.

The Gaza health ministry charged that Israel’s army killed at least 12 people in a strike on the Indonesian Hospital in the Palestinian territory’s north, where entire city blocks have been reduced to rubble.

Smoke billows over Gaza after Israeli strikes on the Palestinian territory on November 20, 2023

Those killed included patients, said Ashraf al-Qudra, a spokesman for the ministry.

Hamas authorities have reported a total death toll of more than 13,300, mostly civilians, from the Israel-Hamas war now in its seventh week.

Dozens more were wounded and 700 people remained trapped inside the “besieged” Indonesian medical centre, Qudra said.

Israel did not immediately comment but pushed on with its withering air and ground campaign aimed at destroying Hamas in response to the October 7 attacks it says killed around 1,200 people.

“We are witnessing a killing of civilians that is unparallelled and unprecedented in any conflict since I am Secretary-General,” said United Nations chief Antonio Guterres.

More than 2.4 million Palestinians are trapped in Gaza and only several hundred war-wounded, foreign nationals and dual passport holders have been allowed out.

Egyptian medics stand by with incubators to receive premature Palestinian babies evacuated from Gaza on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with Gaza

On Monday the UN World Health Organization said 28 premature babies evacuated from Gaza’s biggest hospital, Al-Shifa, had been taken to safety in Egypt through the Rafah crossing, revising down by one a number given by Egyptian media.

“All babies are fighting serious infections and continue needing health care,” the WHO said, while the Israeli army said it had “helped facilitate” the transfer.

The bloodiest ever Gaza war has seen Israeli troops raid, occupy and evacuate Al-Shifa hospital.

A Palestinian man is wounded after a strike on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip

Israel, backed by the United States, argues that Hamas has used vast tunnel networks below Al-Shifa for military purposes. It has shown recovered weapons, and on Sunday said it had uncovered a tunnel but was yet to reveal evidence of a major military headquarters below ground.

The Doctors Without Borders (MSF) charity on Monday said on X, formerly Twitter, that its Gaza City clinic had come under fire “as heavy fighting took place all around it. An Israeli tank was seen in the street.”

Twenty-one people inside are “in extreme danger”, MSF said.

In Israel’s commercial centre, Tel Aviv, alert sirens sounded on Monday and flashes illuminated the sky as air defences intercepted a rocket.

- ‘Like the apocalypse’ -

Alarm has surged over the dire humanitarian situation across Gaza where cold autumn rain has deepened the misery by soaking families living in tents and turning dust to mud.

Destruction in the Gaza Strip

The WHO warned of spreading sickness with 44,000 cases of diarrhoea and 70,000 acute respiratory infections registered in shelters.

With a majority of Gaza’s hospitals no longer functioning, the territory on Monday received from Jordan what Palestinian officials said is the first field hospital since the war began.

It has a 41-bed capacity, the Jordanian royal palace said, and Aed Yaghi, head of medical aid in Gaza, said it was accompanied by 170 personnel and 40 trucks of medical aid.

On Sunday Israel presented what it said was evidence Hamas used Al-Shifa to hide foreign hostages and to mask tunnels, charges the group denies.

Released images showed what Israel said was a 55-metre-long tunnel along with CCTV footage of two male hostages, from Nepal and Thailand, being taken there.

AFP could not immediately verify the footage.

A picture taken during an official media tour organised by the Israeli military shows a soldier displaying a drone, allegedly recovered after the October 7, 2023 attack by Palestinian militants

Israel has told Palestinians to move from north Gaza for their safety, but deadly air strikes have continued to hit central and southern areas.

Families walked along cracked roads as gunshots and explosions rang out in the distance.

“It’s like the apocalypse,” said one tearful woman, Renad al-Helou.

“We are tired. There’s no water, no food… There’s nothing left in Gaza. There’s only destruction, suffering and torture.”

- ‘Humanitarian disaster’ -

The Israeli army said Sunday it was taking the Gaza fight against Hamas to “additional neighbourhoods”.

Artillery and air strikes destroyed several houses in Gaza City, and doctors at the Al-Ahli hospital told AFP they had received dozens of dead and injured.

MSF said that of 122 casualties arriving at a facility in Khan Yunis, in Gaza’s south, 70 were already dead.

On Monday a senior Israeli military official told reporters that if the army wants to take out Hamas’s firepower, “we have to go to the south. We cannot do it without” going there.

The Gaza war has sparked fears of a wider conflagration in the Middle East where Israel has long faced arch-enemy Iran and its allies.

Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, allied with Hamas, said it targeted troops in northern Israel with drones, artillery and missiles on Monday, claiming a string of new attacks.

Israeli soldiers transfer detained Palestinians out of the Gaza Strip

In response to missile launches from “a terrorist cell”, Israel’s military said tanks, a fighter jet and a helicopter struck Hezbollah targets in Lebanon.

Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels on Sunday said they had seized in the Red Sea a cargo ship owned by an Israeli businessman.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the vessel “was hijacked with Iran guidance by the Yemenite Huthi militia”, an allegation Iran rejected.

- ‘Hole in our hearts’ -

During a meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Monday, Jordan’s King Abdullah II called for a ceasefire in Gaza and an “end to the siege”.

The image of hostage Ariel, 4, is projected during a rally outside the offices of the UN children's agency in Tel Aviv to demand the release of Israelis held hostage in Gaza

He warned of the “catastrophic effects of the ongoing heinous war, which is killing innocent, defenceless civilians”, as well as rising settler violence in the occupied West Bank.

Israel has refused to heed calls for a ceasefire before Hamas releases all the hostages, among them infants, teens and pensioners.

In London, the tearful father of missing nine-year-old Emily Hand begged for her to be freed. “There’s just a big, big hole in all our hearts that won’t be filled until she comes home again,” he told AFP.

On Monday, Hand and other hostage relatives said they had not been given information about a possible imminent deal for some to be freed.

US President Joe Biden said Monday he believes a deal to free hostages in Gaza is close. “I believe so,” he said during a White House ceremony.