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Israel strikes ambulance it says was ‘used by Hamas’ to move fighters

Israel has accused Hamas of concealing command centres and tunnel entrances in al-Shifa Hospital

Israel has accused Hamas of concealing command centres and tunnel entrances in al-Shifa Hospital Photo: AAP

Washington’s top diplomat is due to hear Arab demands for a Gaza ceasefire at an emergency meeting in Jordan.

The parley comes as Gaza health officials say 15 people have been killed in an air strike on an ambulance. Israel claims the vehicle was being used in violation of international law as a military transport for weapons and fighters.

The ambulance was part of a convoy Hamas insists was carrying injured Palestinians near Gaza’s biggest hospital, al-Shifa.

“We emphasise that this area is a battle zone. Civilians in the area are repeatedly called upon to evacuate southwards for their own safety,” the Israeli military said in a stament.

Hamas official Izzat El Reshiq dismissed allegations its fighters were aboard the the ambulances with weapons caches as “baseless”.

The Israeli military gave no evidence to support its assertion that the ambulance was linked to Hamas but said it intended to release additional information that would confirm its allegation.

Reuters was unable to independently verify accounts from either side.

‘Utterly shocked’

World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a social media post he was “utterly shocked by reports of attacks on ambulances evacuating patients,” adding that patients, health workers and medical facilities must be protected.

Earlier on Friday, Qidra said ambulances would send critically injured Palestinians who urgently need to be taken to Egypt to be treated from besieged Gaza City to the south of the enclave.

Israel, which has accused Hamas of concealing command centres and tunnel entrances in al-Shifa hospital, ordered all civilians to leave the north of Gaza last month and its military encircled the area on Thursday.

Despite its order for civilians to leave northern areas of Gaza, Israel’s military has continued to bombard the south of the strip as well.

Hamas and al-Shifa hospital authorities have denied the facility is used as a base by militant fighters.

Video shared on social media, which Reuters has verified, showed people lying in blood next to an ambulance with flashing lights on a city street as people rushed to help.

Another video showed three ambulances standing in a line, with about a dozen people lying either motionless or barely moving next to them.

Blood was pooled nearby.

-AAP

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