Israeli troops storm Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital
Israeli and Palestinian officials said military operations were taking place at Gaza City's Al-Shifa hospital, which has been the focal point of an Israeli assault for days.
The Israel military said its troops were carrying out "a precise and targeted operation against Hamas in a specified area" of the facility.
Youssef Abul Reesh, an official from the Gaza health ministry who is inside the hospital, told AFP he could see tanks inside the complex and "dozens of soldiers and commandos inside the emergency and reception buildings."
After sharp warnings from the United States that Al-Shifa hospital "must be protected", Israel said the raid was being executed based on intelligence and "an operational necessity".
Thousands of patients, staff and displaced civilians are believed to be inside the hospital complex, according to local officials.
Witnesses have described conditions as horrific, with medical procedures taking place without anaesthetic, families with scant food or water living in corridors, and the stench of decomposing corpses filling the air.
"There are bodies littered in the hospital complex and there is no longer electricity at the morgues," said hospital director Mohammad Abu Salmiya.
Israel has repeatedly claimed that Hamas uses the hospital as cover for a command post and weapons stores, a claim Hamas denies and that has been refuted by independent witnesses. Israel has provided no evidence to corroborate its claims.
That use "jeopardises" the hospital's "protected status under international law", the military said, a claim that many international human rights lawyers refute.
The Palestinian Authority, historically the representative body for the Palestinians but which has no authority in Gaza, warned "against a massacre being carried out inside the hospital."
Abul Reesh, from Gaza's health ministry, called on "the international community and the United Nations to intervene immediately and urgently to stop the Israeli storming operation."
He urged both to protect what he said were "20,000 people inside the hospital including medical staff and 650 ailing people and thousands of injured people."
The White House on Tuesday said that US intelligence sources had corroborated Israel's claim that Hamas has buried an operational centre under the hospital.
Hamas and another Palestinian militant group, Islamic Jihad, "operate a command and control node from Al-Shifa in Gaza City", National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
"They have stored weapons there and they're prepared to respond to an Israeli military operation against that facility."
Hamas responded by saying it holds the US directly responsible for the Israeli storming of Al-Shifa, saying in a statement:
“The White House and Pentagon’s adoption of the false Israeli narrative claiming that the resistance uses the Al-Shifa Medical Centre for military reasons constituted a green light for [Israel] to commit more massacres against civilians, and to forcibly remove them from the north to the south to continue the occupation’s plan of displacing our people.”