Israel’s ‘You’re next’ warning to allies as they call for easing of Gaza attacks

Benjamin Netanyahu told US TV viewers: “If we don’t win now, then Europe is next and you’re next. We have to win to protect Israel. We have to win to safeguard the Middle East. We have to win for the sake of the civilised world. That’s the battle we’re fighting, and it’s being waged right now. There is no substitute for that victory.”

As he spoke, world leaders called for Gaza’s largest hospital to be protected as Israeli troops closed in.

The World Health Organisation says the Al-Shifa Hospital resembles a cemetery. Doctors there told how around 200 patients had been buried in a mass grave.

People are dying because of a lack of medicine and power cuts are shutting down hospital equipment, they say.

Dr Adnan al-Bursh told the BBC that hospital staff spent six hours burying bodies in the hospital grounds – while another 80 were still in the morgue.

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The United Nations says dozens of babies and kidney patients can no longer be treated because of a lack of electricity.

US President Joe Biden told reporters at the White House: “It’s my hope and expectation that there will be less intrusive action relative to the hospital. The hospital must be protected.”

PM Rishi Sunak also spoke of the “terrible suffering” of Palestinians in Gaza, saying too many civilians were dying.

While backing Israel’s right to defend itself, he called for pauses in the fighting. And a spokesman for UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply disturbed by the horrible situation and dramatic loss of life in several hospitals in Gaza.

“In the name of humanity, the secretary-general calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”

Yesterday the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory proposed that the Al-Shifa hospital be evacuated under the supervision of the Red Cross, but Israel is yet to respond. Israel – which accuses Hamas of operating bases under hospitals including Al-Shifa – says it will evacuate babies for treatment elsewhere and deliver incubators from a hospital in Israel.

But one UK charity, Medical Aid for Palestinians, said the hospital needed power, not incubators because it already had them
– and described the situation there as “beyond horrific”.

Chief executive Melanie Ward said: “What is killing the babies is the lack of fuel that is being provided to the hospital because Israel is preventing it from getting fuel.”

Foreign Office Minister Andrew Mitchell said the UK was considering using “air and maritime options” to get more aid into Gaza.

He told the Commons: “We also are urging the Israeli government to increase humanitarian access including by Rafah (Egyptian border crossing) and by opening up the Kerem Shalom crossing.

“At this point we assess that land presently offers the most viable and safe way to get humanitarian aid into Gaza in the quantities needed, but we are also considering air and maritime options, including through our bases in Cyprus.”

On the ground, fighting continued across Gaza, with the Israeli Defence Forces tightening their stranglehold around Gaza City where remaining Hamas members were said to be operating in a myriad of tunnels. The Israeli army said it had captured “the Hamas parliament” and other buildings in the city.

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It has also released video footage of what it says are Hamas military bunkers and tunnel entrances at Gaza hospitals.

Meanwhile, thousands of refugees sleeping in tents in Gaza were deluged by torrential rain last night. Around 200,000 Palestinians have streamed out of northern Gaza toward worsening conditions in the south in recent days.

In total, more than 1.5million have been displaced since the fighting began. UN-run shelters in the south are severely overcrowded, with an average of one toilet for 160 people.

At a tent camp outside a hospital in the central town of Deir al-Balah, people trudged through mud as they stretched plastic tarpaulins over flimsy tents.

“All of these tents collapsed because of the rain,” said Iqbal Abu Saud, who had fled Gaza City with 30 of her relatives.

“How many days will we have to deal with this?” International charities warned the start of the rainy season could trigger “the most difficult week in Gaza since the escalation began”, increasing the risk of illness and death.

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The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, which is struggling to provide basic services to over 600,000 people sheltering in schools and other facilities in the south, said it is likely to run out of fuel in the next 24 hours, forcing it to halt most aid operations.

In another development, the Israeli military confirmed the death of a 19-year-old woman soldier who was kidnapped by Hamas on October 7.

Noa Marciano was among several snatched from an observation point at the Nahal Oz kibbutz near the Gaza border when Hamas invaded Israel.

The Israeli military gave no cause of death but said Hamas had weaponised the tragedy as part of a campaign of “psychological terrorism”.

Amnon Scheffler, a spokesman for the Israel Defence Forces, said a video released by Hamas of Noa – who turned 19 while kidnapped – was “horrific and evil and clearly psychological warfare”.

In the video, Noa said she was being held with others. “The bombing is very close to us…we could die from the bombings” she said, apparently reading from a script. “Please stop.”

Mr Scheffler said: “She was Hamas’s responsibility; they abducted her, they held her, and whatever happens to the other hostages is their responsibility.”

Hamas took about 240 people, ranging from babies to an 85-year-old, hostage, in the October 7 raids.

The group is believed to be holding them in tunnels and so far only four have been released, including two US citizens.

America’s president has held out hope for the families of the other hostages, saying he was engaged in daily discussions to secure their release.

“Hang in there, we’re coming,” Mr Biden said, when asked by reporters what his message to family members of hostages would be. “I believe it is going to happen but I don’t want to get into details.”

Relatives of the hostages yesterday began a five-day protest march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to demand more is done to free their loved ones. They are due to end their trek outside PM Mr Netanyahu’s home on Saturday.

They accuse him of not doing enough to secure their release as the Israeli military pushes deep into Gaza with an order to destroy Hamas.

Mr Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected pleas for a ceasefire and has insisted all the hostages must be freed.

Israel started blitzing Gaza after the Hamas attacks in which up to 1,200 people were killed.

The Hamas-run health ministry says over 11,000 people have been killed in Gaza, with more than 4,500 children.

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