Israel intensifies offensive around hospitals

The Israeli military has issued evacuation warnings to three hospitals in the City of Gaza. The move raises the possibility that a full-scale attack on the hospitals could take place soon.

The WHO said on Sunday it had lost contact with the staff in Al-Shifa Hospital, the enclave's largest medical facility. It said it had heard the hospital was surrounded by tanks.

Mohammed Obeid, a surgeon at Al-Shifa Hospital, says, "We have two neonate patients who died, because the incubator is not working, because there is no electricity. Also we have an adult patient in the ICU, he died because the ventilator shut down. No one hears us."

Israeli forces claim a key Hamas command center is located under the hospital.

They say they did not attack the facility, and there is safe passage for those who want to evacuate.

People can be seen every day crossing the Wadi Gaza river, which splits the enclave's north from its south.

A Palestinian evacuee says, "The hospital where we were taking shelter was attacked. Where do they expect us to go?"

Another Palestinian evacuee says, "I don't know where my sons are. My wife needs kidney dialysis, but there is no hospital. We're treated like animals."

A Japanese NGO supporting Palestinians says many people cannot leave even if they wanted to, for economic and other reasons.

Kimura Mariko, of the Japan International Volunteer Center, says, "Southern Gaza is already very densely populated. Evacuees may not find a place to stay even if they can get there."

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated the military will stay in the Gaza Strip even after its conflict with Hamas ends.

He says, "Gaza will be demilitarized. There will no longer be a threat from the Gaza Strip to Israel. In order to ensure there will be no such threat, as long as needed, the IDF will continue to control security in the enclave to prevent terror attacks."

His stance is expected to generate a backlash from Arab countries. The United States has also expressed opposition.

A Japanese expert on the Middle East says Israel intends to eliminate any threats from Gaza.

Suzuki Hiroyuki, a Project Associate Professor at the University of Tokyo, says, "Whatever the governing system in the Gaza Strip looks like in the future, I think Israel wants to avoid a political vacuum until such a system is in place."

Suzuki says fighting could spread to Southern Gaza if militants who want to fight Israel remain in the area.