An Israeli airstrike on an ambulance being used to evacuate the wounded from the besieged northern Gaza Strip killed 15 people and wounded 60, the health ministry of the Hamas-controlled Palestinian enclave said.
Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Kidra said the ambulance Israel targeted on Friday near Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City was part of a fleet. Israel targeted the ambulance fleet at several locations, including the gate of Al-Shifa Hospital and Ansar Square, one kilometer away.
The Israeli military hit an ambulance after detecting what it said was being ‘used by a Hamas terrorist cell’. Hamas fighters were killed in this strike.
Israel alleged that Hamas was evacuating its fighters and weapons in ambulances.
Hamas official Izzat al-Rishek dismissed the Israeli accusations, saying that the ambulance had no fighters, saying the allegations were “baseless”.
In a statement on the attack, the Israeli military did not provide any evidence to support its allegations, but said it would release more information.
“This area is a war zone,” the Israeli military said. Civilians in the area have been repeatedly told to move south for their own safety.”
Reuters said it could not independently verify either side’s statements.
Reuters was able to verify video of the incident shared on social media, which showed people lying in a pool of blood next to an ambulance on a city street, as others gathered to help them.
Another video showed three ambulances lined up with about a dozen people lying frozen next to them, some barely moving. There is a lot of blood nearby.
In a post on social media, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was “deeply shocked” by reports of attacks on ambulances while evacuating patients.
Patients, health workers and medical facilities must be protected, he added.
Kidra said before Friday’s incident that seriously injured Palestinians who needed urgent treatment in Egypt would be taken by ambulance from Gaza City to the southern part of the enclave.
Israel has accused Hamas of hiding its command center and tunnel entrance inside al-Shifa hospital.
Hamas and al-Shifa hospital authorities have rejected Israeli accusations that the facility is being used as a base for Palestinian fighters.
Last month, Israel ordered all civilian residents of northern Gaza to evacuate to the south.
But despite ordering civilians to leave northern Gaza, the Israeli military continues to bombard southern Gaza. On Thursday, their military claimed to have encircled Gaza City.