Fighting Rages Around Two Gaza Hospitals as Pressure on Israel Rises

By John Mercury March 31, 2024

Israeli troops and Hamas fighters waged deadly battles in and around two of the Gaza Strip’s major hospitals on Thursday as the Israeli government came under growing pressure at home and abroad to moderate its approach to a war that has devastated the enclave.

Fighting raged for the 11th day at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City in an area Israeli forces first seized in November. The clashes illustrated the difficulty the Israelis are having in keeping control of places they had already taken as Palestinian militants melt away and then return.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, increasingly unpopular and facing criticism on multiple fronts, met for the first time with the families of kidnapped soldiers being held in Gaza, who accused him before the meeting of ignoring their plight for nearly six months. The soldiers’ relatives had largely remained silent in public while other families of captives spoke out, many of them saying the prime minister should agree to a truce with Hamas if that was what it would take to free their relatives.

But there has been no apparent change in Israel’s determination to press on with its offensive in Gaza, despite pressure from, among others, hostage families, the Biden administration and the United Nations, where the Security Council passed a resolution on Monday demanding a cease-fire. After vetoing previous cease-fire resolutions, the United States abstained on Monday, allowing the measure to pass and signaling American displeasure over Israel’s conduct of the war.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague on Thursday ordered Israel to take concrete steps to stop obstructing humanitarian aid to Gaza as starvation spreads there, calling on Israel to increase the number of land crossings for supplies and to provide “full cooperation” with the United Nations. The ruling contained the strongest language the court has used so far as it weighs a case filed by South Africa that accuses Israel of genocide, which Israel denies.

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