Israeli tanks and military vehicles are “inside the courtyard of Al-Shifa Hospital,” Khader Al Za’anoun, a reporter for the Palestinian news agency, Wafa, told CNN.
The Israeli army “is calling on the young men through megaphones to raise their hands, come out, and surrender themselves,” Al Za’anoun said.
Israeli soldiers were “in the buildings and departments (and) are conducting search and interrogation operations with the young men amidst intense and violent gunfire inside the hospital," the reporter added.
The Israeli military said early Wednesday morning it was “carrying out a precise and targeted operation at Al-Shifa, Gaza's biggest hospital. It accuses Hamas militants of operating beneath its structure – an allegation the militant group and hospital officials deny.
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Peter Lerner told CNN on Wednesday the operation at the hospital was "precise" and "ongoing."
“Our operation that was launched in the early hours of this morning in the area of Shifa Hospital was precise, located at [a] specific location within the hospital grounds, within the complex of the hospital. And indeed it was based on operational necessity and intelligence, and the operation is ongoing. I won't go into specifics of where or how the activities are ongoing but I can confirm it is ongoing,” Lerner told CNN’s John Vause.
Asked whether Israeli forces had informed officials in Gaza ahead of the raid, Lerner said: “We work on the basis of international humanitarian law and the laws of armed conflict. And when approaching the hospital we indeed informed the administrators to keep away from the windows to make sure that the patients and civilians inside the complex keep away from the windows and take cover because we intend on conducting our military operation in order to differentiate and distinguish between the civilians and the terrorists.”
“We are trying to and we have been trying to evacuate as many people as we can from the hospital and the hospital grounds itself in order to enable us to confront Hamas and continue our goals of this war," Lerner said.
Some context: Earlier this week doctors at Al-Shifa hospital refused an Israeli military evacuation order because of fear that approximately 700 at-risk patients will die if left behind, according to Dr. Munir Al-Bursh, Director-General of the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza.
“The problem is not the doctors, it’s the patients. And if they are left behind, they will die, and if they are transferred they will die on the way, this is the problem, we are talking about 700 patients,” Dr. Al-Bursh told CNN Monday.