Hospital shut down in northern Gaza, where food trucks finally arrive

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Editor's Note: This page is a summary of news on the Israel-Hamas war for Wednesday, Feb. 28. For the latest news on the conflict in the Middle East, view our live updates file on the war for Thursday, Feb. 29.

The last functioning hospital in northern Gaza shut down Wednesday because of a severe shortage of fuel and medical supplies, a top official at Al-Awda Hospital in Jabalia announced.

Dr. Muhammad Salha, director of the hospital's monitoring and evaluation department, said the facility was depleted during an Israeli siege that lasted for 18 days and was marked by several staff members being killed. The shutdown "will lead to a complete deprivation of basic health services for citizens, especially in light of the cessation of service by all hospitals in the north," Salha said in a statement to the Palestinian news agency WAFA.

Salha appealed to all international, humanitarian and human rights organizations to put pressure on the occupation to supply the hospital with food, medical supplies and fuel.

U.N. relief agencies voiced frustration as recently as Tuesday over continuing restrictions they face from the Israeli military while trying to get supplies into hospitals throughout Gaza − and patients out of them. Aid convoys have "come under fire and are systematically denied access to people in need,” the U.N. Humanitarian Country Team in Palestine said in a statement.

Palestinians burn tires in protest against the rising prices of food and supplies on Feb. 28, 2024, in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip.
Palestinians burn tires in protest against the rising prices of food and supplies on Feb. 28, 2024, in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip.


∎ A group of more than 50 international broadcast journalists have sent an open letter to the embassies of Israel and Egypt calling for “free and unfettered access” to Gaza. CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Sky News and the BBC are among the outlets represented.

∎ The British government said Wednesday that it is stepping up security for lawmakers after politicians reported threats and intimidation linked to the war in Gaza. A $40 million fund will give every lawmaker a “dedicated named police contact” and provide money for those facing threats to pay for private security protection. Reports of antisemitic and anti-Muslim abuse have soared across Britain since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

∎ The families of hostages began a four-day march bound for Jerusalem from Kibbutz Re’im, where hundreds of Israelis were killed at a music festival during the Oct. 7 attack. They marched with a banner reading “united to free the hostages.”

∎ The U.S., Israel, Jordan, France, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt completed an airdrop of 160 packages of food and medical equipment in the southern Gaza Strip and the Jordanian Field Hospital in Khan Younis, the Israeli military said.

'Not interested': Biden says a Gaza truce is near; Hamas begs to differ

Food trucks finally arrive in starving northern Gaza

Battered northern Gaza, where chaos and dangerous conditions prompted the U.N.'s World Food Program to suspend aid deliveries last week, has received its first convoys bringing food in a month, according to Israeli officials.

The military said 31 aid trucks arrived in northern Gaza on Wednesday, after almost 20 on Monday and Tuesday, although it's not clear who carried out the deliveries. The U.N. said it was not involved.

The agency says more than 95% of Gaza's 2.3 million people are in a food insecurity crisis, and 576,000 are near famine. Northern Gaza was the early focus of an Israeli military campaign that devastated the area and drove much of the population to the south.

But hundreds of thousands of Palestinians remain in the north, and humanitarian agencies have said a lack of security has made it too dangerous to bring in life-saving aid. World Food Program workers were swarmed by starving residents when attempting a delivery Feb. 18 after a three-week pause, confronted gunfire and looting, and a truck driver was beaten, WFP leaders said.

U.N. officials say the unloading of trucks entering the strip has been hampered because Gaza police stopped protecting convoys on the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom crossing after Israeli strikes on them. Distributions within Gaza have been crippled by fighting, military restrictions, lack of trucks and social collapse. The U.N. has called for Israel to open crossings in the north to aid deliveries and guarantee safe corridors for convoys.

Egyptian president expects cease-fire deal within days

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said Wednesday that he expects a cease-fire will be reached within a few days, the Palestinian media outlet Al-Hadath reported. Also Wednesday, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said the militant group is showing flexibility in Gaza negotiations to "put an end to its great pain and its grave sacrifices in the war of brutal genocide against it." But he also said militants were ready to continue the fight.

President Joe Biden said Monday that he hoped a deal would be reached within a week, but Ahmad Abdul Hadi, Hamas' representative in Lebanon, said Tuesday that the militant group was "not interested" in the latest proposal, according to the Pan-Arab TV channel Al Mayadeen.

The six-week cease-fire proposal put forward by U.S., Qatari and Egyptian mediators in Paris last weekend included the release of up to 40 women and older hostages as well as the release of up to 300 Palestinians, mostly children, women and older people being held in Israeli prisons, The Associated Press reported.

Hamas urges Palestinians to storm holy site during Ramadan

Haniyeh called on Palestinians to barricade themselves in the mosque on Jerusalem's Temple Mount at the beginning of Ramadan as part of "a broad and international movement to break the siege on al-Aqsa Mosque." The call came a day after Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned that Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas plan on using the Muslim holy month as a “the second stage of Oct. 7, and ignite the ground.” Gallant said the triumvirate is focused on Temple Mount and Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed security officials at a Cabinet meeting this month to present options for quotas that could be placed on Arab citizens visiting the site, among Islam's holiest, for the holiday that begins in less than two weeks. That drew a warning from Israeli security agency Shin Bet that restrictions could lead to violence.

Israel forced US hand on settlement issue, report says

The Israeli government's recent decision to expand settlements in the occupied West Bank, which the Biden administration considers a major obstacle to peace with Palestinians, prompted the U.S. to reverse its official position and declare them illegal under international law, Reuters reported Wednesday.

The U.S. reversal of a policy change made by the Trump administration, after decades of American opposition to the settlements, came not in a long-prepared statement but in the response by Secretary of State Antony Blinken to a reporter's question Friday in Argentina.

"New settlements are counter-productive to reaching an enduring peace,” Blinken said in Buenos Aires. "They’re also inconsistent with international law."

The Biden administration had considered making the policy change for some time before its hand was forced by last week's Israeli announcement that it would authorize about 3,300 new homes to be built in the settlements, Reuters reported.

"We will continue the momentum of settlement throughout the country," Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said.

Israeli military focusing on mental health of soldiers

The Israeli military's Medical Corps will open a new mental health services and family center Thursday that includes a combat post-trauma treatment clinic. About 85% of Israeli soldiers seeking treatment while serving in the war have returned to combat, the military said.

Brigadier General Prof. Alon Glazberg said mental health issues have been present since Oct. 7, when 1,200 people in Israel were killed and 250 taken hostage by Hamas-led militants. He estimated that 30,000 soldiers have undergone "group discussions" with army mental health experts and that more than 3,400 have called a mental health hotline. The military has called up about 270 reservist mental health experts.

"We are aware of the effects of war on the mind and the difficulties that arise from it," Major General Michel Yanko said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Israel Hamas updates: Northern Gaza hospital shut, food trucks arrive