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Gaza’s health ministry said hundreds of people had been killed after an Israeli strike hit an outdoor area attached to a hospital in the besieged Palestinian territory.
The Palestinian health ministry, which is run by the Islamist militant group Hamas, said on Tuesday at least 200 people had been killed in the strike at Al Ahli hospital in Gaza City. The number could not be independently verified.
The Palestine Red Crescent said “hundreds” of people had been killed in the strike. The Israeli military told the Associated Press that it could not immediately provide any details on the reported bombing.
The director-general of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “[The] WHO strongly condemns the attack on Al Ahli Arab Hospital in north Gaza. Early reports indicate hundreds of deaths and injuries. We call for the immediate protection of civilians and health care.”
The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, decreed three days of mourning for the victims, according to the official Palestinian news agency.
Ghassan Abu Sitta, a Palestinian-British surgeon, posted on social media: “I moved to Al Ahli hospital to help out. The Israelis have just hit Al Ahli hospital.”
Thousands of Palestinians have been taking refuge in hospitals believing they would be safe from Israel’s bombardment of the enclave.
The apparent strike came a day before US president Joe Biden is due to arrive in Israel in a bid to show solidarity and influence the conduct of the war against Hamas.
Gaza has been targeted by intense Israeli bombardment for more than a week. Dozens were killed in airstrikes in the southern towns of Rafah and Khan Younis on Tuesday and scores more injured, according to Palestinian officials.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have fled to the south of the enclave after Israel ordered them to leave the north, including Gaza City.
The Israeli military says it is targeting Hamas militants, whom it accuses of hiding around hospitals and schools and using civilians as “human shields”.
The bombardment began after Hamas’s assault on Israel on October 7, which killed more than 1,400 Israelis, according to Israeli officials, while nearly 200 hostages were taken.
The Israeli bombardment has since killed more than 3,000 people in Gaza, according to Palestinian officials.
The UN said on Tuesday that at least six people had been killed when one of its schools in the middle of the territory sheltering 4,000 displaced Palestinians was hit during Israeli air strikes. It added that dozens more were injured including some of its staff in the school in the al-Maghazi refugee camp.
“This is outrageous and it again shows a flagrant disregard for the lives of civilians,” said Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general for UNRWA, the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees. “No place is safe in Gaza anymore, not even UNRWA facilities.”
The UN has warned of an unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. Drinking water is scarce, mains power is not available and supplies of fuel, medicines and food are running out. UNRWA said “people will start dying” because of the water shortages.
Additional reporting by Donato Mancini