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Day 44: IDF tightens control over northern Gaza Strip, Shifa Hospital mostly evacuated

IDF begins instructing Khan Yunis residents to evacuate, indicating new phase in war

IDF operations in Gaza, Nov. 19, 2023 (Photo: IDF)

Over the last 24 hours, IDF troops expanded ground operations into Gaza City's eastern neighborhoods. 

Nahal Brigade fighters, operating in the Jabalya neighborhood, encountered a group of Hamas terrorists about to fire at the forces from the roof of a residential building. Using a drone, the Hamas squad was eliminated before they were able to attack. 

Israel Defense Forces announced on Sunday morning that paratroopers, supported by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) and armored units, operated in the Sheikh Ajlin and Rimal neighborhoods of Gaza City.

During the fighting, soldiers located about 35 tunnel shafts, as well as large quantities of weapons, and eliminated the terrorists.

Rimal is considered one of the most prestigious neighborhoods of Gaza City, with many Hamas senior officials and commanders having a residence there.

Israeli media reported intense fighting in the areas of Zeitoun and Jabalya over the weekend, as many Hamas fighters are believed to have fled there.

IAF fighter jets struck many Hamas structures in the neighborhoods of Jabalya, Zeitoun and Beit Lahia over the last 24 hours. 

The IDF reported the discovery of additional weapons and military equipment in civilian residential buildings. 

Palestinian media reported airstrikes in the southern Gaza Strip in Khan Yunis, as well as in the center of the Gaza Strip in the Nuseirat refugee camp Sunday morning. According to the Palestinian-run WAFA news agency, two people were killed in an IDF strike in Khan Yunis, and 13 others were killed in Nuseirat. It is not clear if those who were eliminated were civilians or Hamas members, as Palestinian media does not typically distinguish between civilian and militant deaths. 

The World Health Organization reported that the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City has become “a death zone”, after a visit on Saturday coordinated by the IDF. 

The visit came after thousands of patients and some medical workers evacuated the hospital to the southern Gaza Strip. 

The WHO said there were 25 health workers and 291 patients, including 32 babies in critical condition, who still remained at Shifa during their visit. 

"WHO and partners are urgently developing plans for the immediate evacuation of the remaining patients, staff and their families," the organization said. 

The IDF denied reports that it had ordered the people to leave the hospital but confirmed that it recommended anyone able to evacuate should do so immediately to avoid danger from the fighting in the immediate vicinity of the hospital compound. 

It said that IDF troops coordinated an evacuation with the hospital’s director and provided a secure route for the evacuees. 

The IDF also said it transferred over 6,000 liters (almost 1,600 gallons) of water and over 2,300 kgs (5,000 pounds) of food to Shifa Hospital on Saturday. 

Food and water provided to Shifa Hospital by the Israeli army, Nov. 18, 2023 (Photo: IDF)

“This activity was done in parallel with the IDF activities to locate and thwart terrorism in the hospital,” the IDF said.

The IDF issued a statement on Saturday: “This morning, we responded to Shifa's management and opened a secure route south. We also brought food and water into the hospital grounds. The forces continue to operate in the hospital; detecting information about the abductees, locating weapons, locating terrorists in the area, and making a concerted effort to expose and destroy the underground tunnels of the hospital. At this time as well, the forces are operating in the tunnels at Shifa Hospital and we will distribute the materials from there later.” 

On Friday, Maj.-Gen. Yaron Finkelman, head of the IDF Southern Command, provided a statement about Hamas using the hospital and its occupants as human shields.

“We see the presence of Hamas in all hospitals, it is a clear presence. They make cynical use of the hospitals, like here in the heart of Shifa.” 

IDF operations in Gaza, Nov. 19, 2023 (Photo: IDF)

Over the last two days, the IDF has also begun to warn residents of the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Yunis to evacuate, indicating it intends to expand operations to that area. 

Khan Yunis is the hometown of Yahya Sinwar, the local Hamas leader and one of the main architects of the brutal Oct. 7 massacre. 

Israel believes that many of the hostages that were kidnapped into Gaza by Hamas terrorists are currently in Khan Yunis. 

Meanwhile, Hamas claimed it had lost contact with some of the teams holding the hostages captive in Gaza. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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