The Israeli military confirmed it struck a convoy of ambulances leaving a Gaza hospital Friday, which it said was being used by “Hamas terrorist operatives.”
Gaza health officials said the strike killed “a big number” of people, while the leader of the World Health Organization said he was “utterly shocked” by the news and reiterated his call for a cease-fire in the war.
Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesperson for the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, said the ambulance was being used to ferry wounded people towards the south of Gaza and to more advanced medical facilities in Egypt.
But in a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, the Israel Defense Forces said the strike killed “a number of Hamas terrorist operatives” and that the ambulances were being used to transfer weapons. The military provided no evidence for its claim but pledged to release additional information.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was “utterly shocked” at the news.
“We reiterate: patients, health workers, facilities, and ambulances must be protected at all times,” he said on X, formerly Twitter. “Always. Ceasefire NOW.”
It is unclear how many people were killed and wounded in the strike.
Israel has accused Hamas of hiding entrances to its vast tunnel network in and around al-Shifa Hospital, near where the strikes took place. Hamas and hospital authorities have denied those claims.
Video of the strike showed destroyed ambulances surrounded by dozens of bloodied bodies, Reuters reported.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was aware of the convoy and said the movement was scheduled in advance.
“We acknowledge having received the request from Gaza [Ministry of Health] to accompany the convoy evacuating the wounded from the northern part of Gaza,” the group said in a statement to CNN.
The Hill has reached out to the ICRC about whether it agreed to accompany the convoy.