Hamas, the Palestinian group governing Gaza, held US President Joe Biden "wholly responsible" for an Israeli assault on Gaza’s largest hospital, al-Shifa. This charge comes amidst heightened tensions in the region and raises serious questions about international involvement and the rules of engagement in conflict zones.
Accusations and International Law Concerns
The accusation from Hamas followed a statement from the White House affirming US intelligence sources' support of Israel's claim that Hamas had an operational center under al-Shifa hospital.
"We hold the occupation [Israel] and President Biden wholly responsible for the assault on al-Shifa medical complex,” Hamas stated. They argued that the adoption of Israel's claim by the White House and Pentagon essentially provided a "green light" for further assaults on civilian targets.
Israeli forces, in a statement on Wednesday morning, described their actions as a "precise and targeted operation" against what they suspected to be a Hamas command center beneath the hospital, which currently shelters thousands of civilians.
Youssef Abul Reesh, a Hamas-run health ministry official inside the hospital, reported seeing tanks and "dozens of soldiers and commandos" in the complex. The situation has sparked intense debate over international law's application in warfare.
Israel has maintained that Hamas’s use of the facility jeopardizes its protected status under international law, a claim refuted by numerous international human rights lawyers. Ardi Imseis, an expert in international law, emphasized that Israel must provide evidence to substantiate its claims, as the hospital is considered a civilian object until proven otherwise.
Humanitarian Crisis and International Response
The ongoing conflict has resulted in a dire humanitarian situation in the hospital. According to medical staff, around 650 patients remain in al-Shifa, with an additional 5,000-7,000 displaced civilians trapped on the grounds, facing constant threat from Israeli forces.
Health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra insisted that only doctors, patients, and displaced persons were inside the hospital, denying any military presence. The White House expressed its concern following the raid's initiation, with a National Security Council spokesperson stating, “We do not support striking a hospital from the air and we don’t want to see a firefight in a hospital." The statement underscored the need to protect civilians and medical facilities, emphasizing the urgency of avoiding harm to “innocent people, helpless people, sick people trying to get medical care they deserve”.
This latest development in the Gaza conflict not only highlights the complexities of warfare in densely populated areas but also the intricate dynamics of international politics and the challenges of adhering to international humanitarian law in conflict situations.
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