Israeli forces, advancing deep into western Khan Younis in Gaza's bloodiest fighting so far in January, stormed one hospital and put another under siege yesterday, cutting off the wounded from trauma care, Palestinian officials said.
Troops advanced for the first time into the al-Mawasi district near the Mediterranean Coast, west of Khan Younis, the main city in southern Gaza. There, they stormed the Al-Khair hospital and were arresting medical staff, Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf al Qidra said.
The Israeli military said three soldiers were killed in southern Gaza.
Qidra said at least 50 people were killed overnight in Khan Younis, while the sieges of medical facilities meant dozens of dead and wounded were beyond the reach of rescuers.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said tanks had surrounded another Khan Younis hospital, al-Amal, headquarters of the rescue agency, which had lost contact with staff there.
Elad Goren of COGAT, the Israeli defence ministry branch that coordinates with the Palestinians, said: "A particular effort led by a dedicated team has been put on making sure civilians have access to medical care."
Residents said the bombardment from air, land and sea was the most intense in southern Gaza since the war began in October.
The newest phase of the war has brought fighting deep into the last corners of the enclave packed with those fleeing bombardment.
Most of Gaza's 2.3mn residents are now penned into Rafah just south of Khan Younis and Deir al-Balah just north of it, crammed into public buildings and camps of tents made from plastic sheets lashed to wooden frames.
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