Israeli airstrike on a hospital tent camp in Gaza kills two Palestinians

Palestinians carry a wounded person following an Israeli airstrike near the Al Aqsa hospital in Deir al Balah (AP)
Palestinians carry a wounded person following an Israeli airstrike near the Al Aqsa hospital in Deir al Balah (AP)

An Israeli airstrike hit a tent camp inside a hospital in central Gaza on Sunday, killing two Palestinians and wounding another 15.

The strike hit one of several tents in the courtyard of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah, where thousands of people have been sheltering for months after fleeing their homes elsewhere in the war-ravaged territory.

Tens of thousands of people have sought shelter in Gaza's hospitals since the start of the war, viewing them as relatively safe from airstrikes. Israel accuses Hamas and other militants of operating in and around medical facilities, and troops have raided a number of hospitals.

Israeli troops have been raiding Shifa Hospital, Gaza's largest, for nearly two weeks and say they have fought heavy battles with militants in and around the medical compound. The military says it has killed scores of fighters, including senior Hamas operatives.

Palestinian families who fled from the area, including many who had already been displaced earlier in the war, say they were ordered to march south by Israeli soldiers after days of heavy fighting.

Only a third of Gaza's hospitals are even partially functioning, even as Israeli strikes kill and wound scores of people every day. Doctors say they are often forced to treat patients on hospital floors because all the beds are taken, and to operate without anesthetic and other crucial medical supplies.

A international team of doctors who had recently visited Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, where Sunday's strike occurred, said they were horrified by the war's gruesome impact on Palestinian children.Gaza's Health Ministry said Sunday that at least 32,782 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the war, including 77 whose bodies were brought to hospitals over the last 24 hours. The ministry's count does not differentiate between civilians and fighters, but it has said that women and children make up around two-thirds of those killed.

Israel says over one-third of the dead are militants, though it has not provided evidence to support that, and it blames Hamas for civilian casualties because the group operates in residential areas.