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Gaza’s Shifa Hospital Begins to Evacuate as IDF Surrounds Hamas

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Authorities at the Shifa hospital in Gaza City have begun evacuating the medical center following orders from the IDF, which has surrounded the compound where Hamas is believed to have built a key command center underneath, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing a person familiar with the matter.

The hospital was rocked by at least one explosion on Friday, as Israeli forces approached the site. It is not yet clear who was responsible for the blast.

Between 50,000 and 60,000 people had been sheltering inside and around the grounds of the hospital, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, which says there are 2,500 patients.

The Israel Defense Forces had earlier reached the outskirts of Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, where Israel believes Hamas’s main headquarters to be located, Hamas claimed on Friday morning. The IDF issued no comment.

According to Palestinian reports, heavy fighting was occurring around the perimeter of the hospital, as well as near Al-Rantisi Hospital, also in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.

The reports said that Israeli special forces were operating in the area and that armored forces were closing in.

The Associated Press said thousands of Palestinians were fleeing from around Shifa, and joining a growing exodus to the south of the strip.

The head of the Hamas-run media office in Gaza, Salama Maarouf, told Al Jazeera that strikes were carried out near three hospitals in total, but gave no casualty figures.

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