Armed Israeli forces disguised as women and medical workers stormed a hospital on Tuesday in the occupied West Bank, killing three Palestinian militants in a dramatic raid that underscored the spill-over of deadly violence to the territory during the war in Gaza.
The Palestinian health ministry said Israeli forces opened fire inside the wards of the Ibn Sina Hospital in the town of Jenin.
The ministry condemned the raid and called on the international community to pressure Israel’s military to halt such operations in hospitals.
A hospital spokesperson said there was no exchange of fire, indicating that it was a targeted killing.
The Israeli military said the militants were using the hospital as a hideout.
It alleged that one of those targeted in the raid had transferred weapons and ammunition to others for a planned attack, purportedly inspired by the Hamas assault on southern Israel on October 7.
The military did not provide evidence backing that claim.
Footage said to be security camera video from the hospital that circulated on social media showed about a dozen undercover forces, most of them armed, dressed as women with Muslim headscarves or hospital staff in scrubs or white doctor’s coats.
One in a surgical mask carried a rifle in one arm and a folded wheelchair in the other.
The forces were seen patting down one man who kneeled against a wall, his arms raised.
Israel has come under heavy criticism for its raids on hospitals in Gaza, which have acted as a shelter for displaced people and also as a critical yet struggling lifeline for the tens of thousands of Palestinians wounded in the war.
Gaza’s health care system, which was already feeble before the war, has been on the verge of collapse, buckling under the scores of patients, the lack of resources – including fuel and medical necessities blocked by Israeli restrictions — and the repeated fighting surrounding and inside hospitals.
Israel says militants use hospitals, especially in Gaza, to hide out or to launch operations from.
The military has found underground tunnels in the vicinity of hospitals, and says it has located weapons and vehicles used in the October 7 attack on hospital grounds.
The war was triggered by Hamas’ attack, when hundreds of militants stormed across the border, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducting about 250 others.
The attack set off a blistering air, sea and ground offensive that has killed more than 26,000 people in Gaza and wounded more than 65,000, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.
The ministry count does not distinguish between fighters and non-combatants, but it says about two-thirds of the dead are women and children.
The fighting has sparked a humanitarian catastrophe, displacing 85% of the tiny coastal enclave’s population, levelling vast swaths of it, and pushing a quarter of residents to starvation, according to the United Nations.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said Israeli forces raided the Al-Amal Hospital in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis on Tuesday, where about 7,000 displaced people were sheltering.
In a post on X, formerly Twitter, the rescue service said Israeli tanks lined up outside the hospital were firing live ammunition and smoke grenades at the people inside. Raed al-Nims, a spokesperson for the aid group, said everyone was ordered to evacuate.
The Israeli military said without elaborating that its forces were operating in the area of the hospital but not inside it.