RAFAH, Gaza Strip — Five patients in intensive care died after their oxygen was cut off at southern Gaza’s main hospital that was stormed by Israeli troops, causing chaos among hundreds of staff and injuries inside, health officials said on Friday. Troops were searching the compound where the military said it believes the remains of hostages kidnapped by Hamas could be located.

The raid came after troops laid siege to Nasser Hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis for almost a week, with staff, patients and others inside fighting under intense fire and dwindling supplies, including food. and water. The Israeli military said on Friday it had detained dozens of people at the facility, including some who were allegedly involved in the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7.

Meanwhile, negotiations over a ceasefire in Gaza appear to have stalled, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday sharply rejecting the American post-war vision, particularly its calls for the creation of a Palestinian state. After speaking overnight with President Joe Biden, Netanyahu wrote in X that Israel will not accept “international dictates on a permanent agreement with the Palestinians.”

He said that if other countries unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state, they would give a “reward to terrorism.” Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected the creation of a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu has vowed to continue the offensive and expand it to the Gaza city of Rafah, near Egypt, until Hamas is destroyed and dozens of hostages taken during the militants’ Oct. 7 attack are freed. In their phone call, Biden again warned Netanyahu not to press ahead with a military operation in Rafah before coming up with a “credible and executable plan” to ensure the safety of Palestinian civilians, the White House said.

Two Israeli airstrikes on Rafah overnight killed at least 10 people, including seven members of the same family, according to hospital officials.

With the war showing no signs of ending, the risk of a broader conflict grew as Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group engaged in the deadliest exchange of fire along the border since the start of the Israel-Israel war. Hamas. Israel launched airstrikes in southern Lebanon for a second day on Thursday after killing 10 civilians and three Hezbollah fighters on Wednesday in response to a rocket attack that killed one Israeli soldier and wounded several others.

The Nasser Hospital was the last in a series of hospitals that Israeli forces besieged and raided during the war, alleging that Hamas was using them for military purposes. The attacks have destroyed Gaza’s health sector, which is struggling to treat a constant flow of people injured in daily bombings.

The military said Thursday that it had “credible intelligence” that Hamas had been holding hostages there and that the hostages’ remains may still be inside. On Friday, the military said its troops were continuing to search the hospital but did not report finding any bodies.

He said 20 people were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the Oct. 7 attack and dozens were questioned. He also said troops found grenades and mortar shells, and that militants had fired mortars from inside the hospital a month ago. The claims could not be independently confirmed.

A freed hostage told The Associated Press last month that she and more than two dozen other captives had been held at Nasser Hospital.

As they searched, troops ordered the more than 460 staff, patients and their families to move to an older building in the complex that is not equipped to treat patients, Gaza’s Health Ministry said. Six patients were left in the ICU with no one to care for them, along with three babies in incubators, the ministry said.

On Friday, the ministry said five of those patients had died because the electricity was cut, disrupting the supply of oxygen to them. “The Israeli occupation is responsible for the lives of patients and staff, as the complex is now under its full control,” the ministry said. He said troops had set up shop in the hospital’s maternity ward and were taking male patients there, apparently for interrogation.

Israeli troops, tanks and snipers have surrounded Nasser Hospital for at least a week, as food, water and supplies inside become scarce and gunfire from outside kills several people inside, according to health officials. Hours before troops entered the hospital on Thursday, Israeli fire killed one patient and wounded six others, staff said.

Hamas, in a statement on Friday, denied that its fighters were using the Nasser Hospital for military purposes and called the accusations “lies that were circulated to justify the war crime.”

International law prohibits attacking medical facilities, although they may lose that protection if they are used for military purposes. Even then, Israel must take precautions and follow the principles of proportionality, the UN Human Rights Office said, adding that “as an occupying power” Israel has a duty to maintain medical facilities.

The war began when Hamas militants on October 7 stormed Gaza and attacked several Israeli communities, killing about 1,200 people and taking another 250 hostage. More than 100 captives were freed during a ceasefire in November in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners. Around 130 hostages remain in Gaza, and a quarter of them are believed to be dead.

Israel responded to the Hamas attack with one of the deadliest and most destructive military campaigns in recent history.

At least 28,775 Palestinians have been killed, mostly women and children, and more than 68,500 have been wounded, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants. Around 80% of the population has been driven from their homes and a quarter is dying of hunger amid a worsening humanitarian catastrophe. Large areas of northern Gaza, the first objective of the offensive, have been completely destroyed.

Israeli media reported that CIA Director William Burns flew to Israel to meet with Netanyahu and discuss efforts to achieve a ceasefire.

Hamas says it will not release all remaining captives until Israel ends its offensive, withdraws and releases Palestinian prisoners, including top militants.

Netanyahu has rejected those demands and says Israel will soon expand its offensive toward Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city. More than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have sought refuge in Rafah after fleeing fighting elsewhere.


Mroue reported from Beirut.


Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

By Sam